Final Destination (2000)

There are a several ways I can imagine the pitch for Final Destination being thought up. Maybe the screenwriter was booked onto a flight that, for one reason or another, he never actually got on, and it crashed, sending him into an uncontrollable spiral of survivor's guilt and leading him to write the movie as a way to deal with all the "what ifs" that plague him when he wakes up in the middle of the night. In another, the hapless writer got fired from working on another movie, and plotted to make his own movie -- but the only thing he was ever any good at was writing the death scenes. In yet another, an all-night, drug-fuelled Mousetrap marathon caused writers to see death everywhere they turned, as a distant but inevitable consequence of every single minute action.

Whatever happened, I'm sure it initially seemed like a good idea. Issues of predestination vs. free will and the ways in which fate and chance affect our lives seem like good, solid themes for a movie; throw in a hot young cast and a generous amount of self-awareness, and we should've been onto a winner. The fact that director James Wong was a writer on both The X Files and Millennium should also have been a bonus, as are the amazingly set-up deaths. Somehow, though, it just didn't work out.

On a class trip to France, a student foresees an accident wherein he and everyone else on the plane die, horribly and painfully. Panicking, he manages to get himself, six of his fellow students and their teacher off the plane before it does indeed explode. Understandably shaken, the survivors' problems aren't over yet -- one by one, they start getting killed off in horrible accidents of their own. Incredibly overblown, amazingly contrived accidents that involve one small element catalysing a crazy chain of events that culminates in spectacular deaths. Somehow, Alex (Devon Sawa, aka Casper), the student who originally foresaw the accident, manages to get involved at every crime scene, making him a prime suspect for the FBI agents investigating the case. For the few survivors left, it becomes a race against time to figure out "Death's" pattern and thwart his plans. Luckily, another survivor, Clear (Ali Larter) is an empath, and there's a spooky guy at the morgue who apparently knows far more about death than is ever really healthy, so there's plenty of opportunity for impossible exposition.

The problem is that the movie doesn't ever quite seem to know what it wants to be. It's not scary enough to really be a horror movie; there are moments that inspire sympathetic cringes from the audience, but nothing like real fear. It's not knowing or tongue-in-cheek enough to ever be really funny; it's not really clever enough to make any real observations about the nature of life and death, and if anything it seems to shy away from its bigger themes in favour of the crazy chain-o-death kills. Which, don't get me wrong, are certainly enjoyable, but something somewhere along the line didn't quite get thought out thoroughly enough. There's a distinct sense of having lost brain cells after watching Final Destination, which is never an inspiring recommendation.

The movie does have one glaringly obvious use, though: fodder for drinking games. Drink every time there's a logical inconsistency; drink every time you wish a character would get on and die; drink every time water is directly involved in a death; drink every time you think you know how a kill's going to pan out and you're wrong...

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