13 February 2010

Final Destination

On the surface Final Destination appears to be a straightforward teen movie, released in 2000 by James Wong, who will be familiar to some as one of the producers of The X-Files. Indeed, the film bears much in common with a stand-alone episode of The X-Files, and despite the jaded appearance lent to it by the increasingly clich├ęd 'teen cast' device, the film is worth viewing, particularly if you're a fan of Wong's previous (or indeed, later) works.

Unlike most horror films, there is no personification of the 'evil' within the plot; it's simply a logical consequence of having reached the end of one's lifespan. The basic premise concerns the logistics of death, that there is a time at which each individual is supposed to die; death will, basically, get you in the end. Yet having beaten the pattern once because of Alex's peculiarly gory visions, the cast are left to spend the rest of their lives trying to beat the system one more time. Most of them fail, of course, leading to a series of spectacularly grotesque deaths.

The premise is good, and the philosophical questions it raises are intriguing - superficially, at least. But there is no doubt that the characters are designed to complement each other perfectly: there's the confused male with peculiar powers, the attractive, kooky girl and the dumb high school jock complete with girlfriend-who's-not-prepared-to-put-up-with-much-more. The appearance of Seann W Scott is more unsettling than anything - seeing Stifler from American Pie in a horror film is slightly incongruous. By the end, also, the amazing co-incidences on the part of 'death', while clearly designed to show that fate is pretty difficult to wriggle out of, have become almost unbelievably convenient for the writers.

There are, despite the niggles, some genuinely great moments in the film - at least one death is so unexpected it rivals Samuel L Jackson's moment of shark-devoured glory in Deep Blue Sea. The producers must have spent half the budget on gore, as well; just about every scene is drenched in blood. What would have made it better? Less teen actors and a bit less formula, perhaps: how many mortuary assistants (Ex-Candyman Tony Todd, no less...) do you know who find kids creeping around in the dead of night but take the time out to helpfully explain the logistics of existence? ('You can't cheat death.' - Deus ex machina plot crowbar, anyone?) That said, on the whole Final Destination is a pretty good evening's entertainment. If you're thinking of seeing it, though, do yourself a favour and see Donnie Darko first. It'll make less sense, but ultimately it'll be far more enjoyable. Alternately, the sequel Final Destination II is considered by many to be superior to the first movie, although it maintains its own set of minor flaws.

Cast: Devon Sawa (Idle Hands), Ali Larter (The House on Haunted Hill), Seann W. Scott (American Pie), Kerr Smith (Dawson's Creek), Kristen Cloke, Amanda Detmer, Chad E Donella, Brendan Fehr, Daniel Roebuck, Roger Guenver Smith, Tony Todd (Candyman), Barbara Tyson

Director: James Wong

Screenwriter: Glen Morgan, James Wong from a story by Jeffrey Reddick

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