In 2000 a franchise was born. A franchise that has seen phenomenal success grossing somewhere in the region of $665 million worldwide across 5 movies. Amazingly this franchise has done this by barely changing the formula once & giving diminishing results as each film went on.
We are of course, talking about the Final Destination franchise.
What do you think of when someone says Final Destination to you? Is it interesting & satisfying plot? Is it well written & memorable characters? Or is it the smart way all the films are intricately linked?
Of course not. Ask anyone what they think of when they hear ‘Final Destination’ & they will bring up the many convoluted death scenes and/or the big premonition sequences. The latter of two became so popular that later entries would see multiples of these & lose just what a premonition actually is.
Those films are for the future though. This review is for the film that started it all off. The very first Final Destination which was directed by James Wong & starred Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith and Tony Todd.
Sawa plays Alex Browning, a high school student on board Volée Airlines Flight 180 for a class school trip to Paris. He’s a pretty nervous guy which is made all the worse by him having a very detailed & horrific premonition of the plane having engine failure before exploding shortly after take off.
Now credit where credit is due. The simplicity of this sequence is excellent. Later movies would go so over the top that this almost seems tame by comparisons. However it actually proves to be one of the best ‘premonition’ sequences of the entire franchise. Simply because it has enough realism to scare.
So when Alex finishes his premonition he is naturally freaked out & when events that occurred leading up to the crash happen, he panics. He makes a scene & ends up in a fight with another classmate. The two, as well as other students caught up in the scuffle, are taken off the plane then forced to watch it take off knowing they’re missing out on their holiday.
…and then it blows up in mid air.
Unsurprisingly Alex comes under suspicion of having some sort of involvement with the explosion. No-one but Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) believe him but with no actual evidence he is released.
Call it luck. Right?
Unfortunately not. As the mortician, William Bludworth (Tony Todd) later reveals, they messed up Death’s plan & now it wants the lives of those who where meant to die on the plane. Slowly the survivors begin to die in ‘accidents’ or ‘suicides’ & Alex realises that they can cheat death by watching out for signs.
Cheat death & it skips you moving on to the next person. Can a person live like this? Alex believes so. Unfortunately for him & all his friends, Death is a vindictive git.
Final Destination is a well loved movie & it is easy to see why. The plot, while not a slasher flick, plays out in a very similar way. The difference being here that instead of being hunted by a Michael Myers or Jason the cast are being hunted by an unseen force. One that really likes to set up convoluted situations. Ones that may lead to death but also give the cast an opportunity to dodge it. That in itself is puzzling. Sure, Death wants to make it look accidental. However, if it’s so vindictive why does it leave so many things to chance?
The best moments of the movie involve sudden & unexpected deaths. Ones that you just about see coming moments before the event actually occurs. The flying piece of metal decapitation & the bus scene are two that stand out for those reasons.
Don’t get me wrong, the death scenes in this movie are all pretty good. Nothing to over the top & with just a touch of realism to make you squirm. These are situations that could occur to any one of us & it makes you think about how many daily tasks you do without a second thought that could see you die in an instant.
This adds some decent tension to certain moments of the film & while it begins to feel dragged out near the end it still is an enjoyable watch.
Where the film falls down is with its cast. Now, no-one does a bad job. However, it’s clear by the casting choices that this was aimed at a more teen-friendly audience. Casting actors who had been in other teen movies/shows mean it’s difficult to see them in any other way. Actors like Sawa (Idle Hands), Larter (House on Haunted Hill), Kerr Smith (Dawson’s Creek) & Seann William Scott (American Pie) all had huge & memorable roles just before Final Destination.
It is an unfortunate distraction especially as the likes of Devon Sawa play it in a very similar way.
It feels like a late 90s/early 00s horror but thanks to some good visual effects, some nasty looking deaths & an ending that will bring a smile to faces, Final Destination gets the franchise off to a strong start.