Director: James Wong
Writer(s): James Wong, Glen Morgan, Jeffrey Reddick
Release Date: March 17, 2000
This review is part of our 31 Days of Horror series. You can check out the other posts by clicking these words.
Watered down with sequel after sequel, each increasingly more unnecessary than the last, I decided to go back to basics and take another look at the first in a series of gore-tastic films that kick-started one of the most well-known horror streaks. Final Destination follows a bunch of teens about to embark on a school trip abroad. The premise introduces us to some key characters and takes us up to them all boarding the flight, excited and ready for the trip – all except one of them. The film is introduced with Alex – the main protagonist – being very anxious to the lead-up of the plane setting off for the aforementioned school trip, noticing minor faults which soon lead to major, devastating faults; and, of course, like with any horror film, things go to shit, with the plane’s engines failing and the entirety of the aircraft deteriorating and ultimately blowing up mid-take-off. Lovely stuff.
Okay, so the main protagonist is dead. Sounds like a top-notch film.
And then he wakes up, dazed and mortified – yep, Alex had dreamt this dastardly disaster, as we’re brought back to the present situation to find everything Alex “dreamt” coming true. It was a premonition! Alex becomes increasingly distraught as he notices everything progressing exactly as he’d just so vividly experienced.
Hellbent on living, he tries his best to warn the others, eventually getting off the flight and convincing a few others to do so, too. Sat in the airport watching their fellow peers take off, a few of them remain, disappointed and sombre – that is, until they see the flight they were supposed to be on explode in the distance.
At the stark realisation that Alex predicted the future, the remaining survivors become distraught. As life continues and further events transpire, Alex and his surviving friends soon come to realise that Death is intent on coming for them, one-by-one, for they should have died on that plane and had essentially cheated death. And from here on out the film is basically a game of chase with Death and the gang, in a freakishly fun gore-fest.
So a bunch of kids are being chased by death? Sounds pretty daft.
Despite it being quite a simple premise, this film was unlike anything else I’d seen at its time of release; and being the wonderfully morbid human that I am, I’ve always had somewhat of a penchant for death – in the nicest way possible, of course. The opening sequence reels the viewers in with a simple yet shocking turn of events which leaves the viewers waiting to see what happens to the survivors, and whether Alex will accurately foresee any upcoming events again. Spoiler: he does.
So what exactly is it that’s so enjoyable about a film based around a trigger-happy and arbitrarily vengeful Death?
The film sticks to its simple storytelling, meaning we don’t find out the deeper details of these characters, such as how and why Alex was able to see the future; but I think in avoiding the deeper details, the eerie atmosphere and shock-factor are suitably maintained throughout. The obvious highlights of the film are the ensuing deaths which occur in creative and unexpected fashions – but also the suspense surrounding these deaths, in that the viewer is often led astray only to suddenly have said deaths thrown in their faces unexpectedly.
As the film goes on, we quickly reach the conclusion that these kids are going to die. After all, death stops for no man, woman or child (so no having to send just the women and children to safety here, guys.) Knife-deep in the film, viewers find themselves eagerly anticipating the next death, excited for the cold, callous and gruesome way in which it’s almost certain to occur – and I think this aspect of the film is what makes it especially enjoyable, in that it manages to make the viewers hold a vested interest in the film – because which avid film fan doesn’t love a gruesome and cringe-inducing death? Really, I’m waiting for an answer.
Final Destination proved to be, in its own right, an original and genuinely enjoyable horror that manages to gauge and appease a large-scale audience, despite its over-the-top and sadistic renditions of unnecessary deaths. Despite being followed by increasingly incompetent sequels, the first instalment manages to stand on its own legs as a genuinely enjoyable watch, with a second and third sequel which aren’t the worst films in existence. Don’t bother with the rest, though.
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