(2000) Horror (New Line) Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Daniel Roebuck, Roger Guenveur Smith, Chad E. Donella, Seann William Scott, Tony Todd, Amanda Detmer, Brendan Fehr, Lisa Marie Caruk, Christine Chatelain, Barbara Tyson. Directed by James Wong
Longtime “X-Files” producers Glen Morgan and James Wong are responsible for what may seem — at first glance — a typical “bump-off-the-teens” horror/thriller. But if you know anything about their pedigree, you’ll realize you’re in for a wild ride.
Heartthrob Devon Sawa stars as Alex Browning, a nervous teen who is getting ready to go to Paris on a field trip with his high school class (now, why oh why didn’t my school go places like that?). After experiencing a series of unsettling premonitions which make him a bit more nervous, whatever power is trying to communicate with him finally hits him over the head with a particularly vivid vision of the plane’s destruction. Unnerved, he freaks out on the plane, sending several of his classmates and himself off the plane, which takes off without them and is promptly blown from the sky. No survivors.
Alex is treated as a bit of a nutcase by those who survive, including the jockish bully (Smith), his exasperated girlfriend (Detmer), his sympathetic buddy (Donella), a badly shaken teacher (Cloke), a somewhat tightly-wound cyclist (Scott) and an artistic orphan who is somewhat sweet on him (Larter). He is also pursued by a pair of milquetoast FBI agents, who are suspicious about his vision.
However, things get sinister in a hurry as, one by one, the survivors are bumped off in grisly, mysterious ways. Turns out they were meant to be on that plane and that somehow, they’ve cheated death. Death is mighty cheesed off about it, too.
The rest of the picture is spent with the survivors trying to avoid the Grim Reaper. One of the movie’s best features is that horror clichés are used to its advantage. The audience is set up to look one way when all of a sudden it is stunned by something coming from left field. It’s a good roller-coaster ride, with lots of good surprises. Morgan and Wong excel at putting a different spin on things.
The trouble is, this is a movie designed to appeal to teens, which is great if you are one. But for the rest of us, it’s a pain to have to endure the posturing and posing of young actors for whom looking cool is more important than looking believable. Some of the performances are a bit, shall we say, over the top.
Still, there is a lot of little things that make “Final Destination” worthwhile. All of the character names, for example, are based on the names of great horror directors and writers (see if you can figure out who is who). The effects, while grisly, are used effectively for some good scares and some “eww gross” moments. In fact, the scares are more than good – there are some terrific scares here, which makes this a good movie for men to take their dates to for some serious hold-me protection (wink). It sure worked on Da Queen.
When you have a genuinely creepy premise, sometimes you can get by with less-than-stellar performances. This could have been a better flick with better characters and better acting, but what movie couldn’t be? It was certainly good enough to initiate a franchise which is still going strong with a sixth installment in the works, albeit at a different studio than where the films originated. The first one is still pretty much among the best of the lot. Invite a friend….and see it in the dark. Your electric bill and your guest will both thank you.
WHY RENT THIS: A clever premise. Some satisfying left-field scares and some nifty special effects. Todd is chilling in his role.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A little bit too much posing and posturing. A lot of teens acting like dumb teens.
FAMILY MATTERS: There is plenty of violence as you might expect and a bit of gore.
TRIVIAL PURSUITS: The news footage of the plane crash was taken from the crash of TWA Flight 800 which crashed on July 17, 1996.
NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: There is some footage from the test screenings and a featurette that talks about their importance. There is also a featurette on a real-life woman who has had several premonitions about disasters that have come to pass.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $112.9M on a $23M production budget; the movie was a surprise blockbuster that wound up kicking off a franchise.
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
TOMORROW: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol