I love the Final Destination films, and while one can have a spirited debate of which one is the best [they’re all good, although 3 may be the weakest], there’s a very compelling argument that this one, second in the series, is the best. And there the DVD was for a mere $2 at the resale store, at which point I decided that I must add this cinematic classic to my formidable collection.
For those just joining us, the Final Destination films all have a different cast of characters, but the same format: The main character has a premonition that a large number of people will die in a disaster. He or she prevents a group of people from dying in the disaster, which occurs immediately after. But, since they all “cheated death,” death itself comes after them one by one, in a series of complicated, gruesome, and often horrifyingly funny ways.
These movies inadvertently moved very soon into the realm of the postmodern, however, as they are slasher films without any killer at all, a concept that proved bizarrely effective in illuminating the mechanics of horror movie fear, because it is all fear, no real threat. The best results of the films are to have you start considering every object, from a loose screw to a dead goldfish, as a potentially lethal threat, and the movies show an infectious, macabre glee in finding extra-creative ways for a series of improbable events to result in a character’s shocking demise.
This one has one of the best opening accidents, a large freeway pile-up, which succeeds in building tension as a large number of vehicles are racing forward as potential threats pile up: a wobbly cup of hot coffee, a guy doing coke as he drives, a loose chain on a truck hauling logs. The chain breaks, and a spectacular accident goes down, killing all of our characters! But—it was only a premonition, and our main character prevents a bunch of people from getting on, setting up a diverse set of people who will be our ensemble for the rest of the movie.
They start dying right quick, only this time the filmmakers are a bit more confident of their concept, and the lead-up to each death is a bit more complicated and filled with fake-outs, the contributions of even more random deadly elements [the fridge magnet of doom!] and leading you toward a thinking one thing will end up in the kill—then having it arrive from another angle.
This movie also brings back the awesome Ali Larter—also featured in the other long-lasting, so-simple-it’s-postmodern horror series, Resident Evil—and her super-fun wave of arrogant bitchiness. Just look at her face in the screenshot. She’s just one of those haughty blond princesses for whom everyone else is just such a fucking idiot, and while I might maintain a distance from her in real life, in a movie she’s absolutely delightful. And this movie gives you a great dose of her awesomeness.
Well, all I can say is that it stood up to a repeat viewing. If you’ve never seen one, start with this one! It’s a low-budget, teen horror cash grab that actually turns out to be far more fun and clever than it was originally intended, and it’s also a fun, gruesome and darkly humorous good time. It’s also fun because you sense that the filmmakers were surprised how well the first one did and put a bit more effort into really having fun with this one. After this, the best one is the fifth, but four is good, too. Because of the series’ elaborate set-pieces and long, excruciating lead-ups, I nurse a dream that Brian De Palma would make one, but alas, I know that’s just an empty hope.