March 19, 2000 -- "Final Destination" is pretty good, for a horror film, one of the worst genres in the history of genres. It reminded me a bit of "The Omen," a long series of creative, unusual, violent, grisly deaths.
The idea is simple, a high school student, Alex Browning (played by Devon Sawa, who appeared in "Idle Hands") gets a vision of his own death and that of his fellow passengers just after boarding a jetliner to France. He, a teacher, Ms. Valerie Lewton (Kristen Cloke of "The Rage") and several other students are forced to get off the plane because of the ruckus Alex causes. Another student, Clear, (Ali Larter of "The House on Haunted Hill"), gets off the plane because she believes in Alex's vision.
The plane, of course, blows up, just as it did in Alex's vision. Only those who stayed behind on the ground survive, but later, one, by one, they start dying off, killed in bizarre accidents. For those of you who never heard of a Rube Goldberg gadget, its one of those things like Doc Brown built in "Back to the Future" to feed his dog. One gizmo hits another thing and there's a chain of events that continues until the final result. That's what these deadly accidents are like. A chain of very unlikely events, which usually end with sharp objects flying through the air toward their very unlucky victim. The movie teaches the viewers valuable safety lessons, like, don't stand in the middle of the street when traffic is coming and don't stop your car on the railroad tracks. Another lesson, millions of people die in household accidents, wanna watch some?
It gets to be a kind of sick game after a while. As you watch the victim putter around the house. Is she going to die in a gas explosion or is she going to be electrocuted? The movie plays with your anticipation, and usually comes up with something you hadn't thought of.
Alex discovers there is a pattern to all of this. Death has been cheated, and death is a poor loser. He's rigging the game against the survivors. These accidents are happening to re-establish the proper order of things, in other words fate, predestination. What is it about Hollywood and this notion of predestination? It can't be caused by a colony of California Calvinists. It is more likely Beverly Hills Buddhists. Calvinists aren't fashionable enough, they wear drab colors, and they are opposed to sin.
Alex figures out that if he can cheat death again, that's it, he'll be able to live a full measure of life, whatever that is. You can forget about deep thoughts on this one, folks. If death gets two shots at you, why not three, four, five, six? Anyway, those are the rules, and you have to have rules in this kind of serial killing genre. Eventually, the rules break down, however, and we get to the idiot plot, as in only an idiot would stand there and get killed.
Alex and his dwindling number of fellow survivors run and jump out of the way of the nasty Rube Goldberg killing machines that stalk them relentlessly throughout the movie. Oh yes, and Alex is wrongly accused of murder too, and is on the run from the cops at one point. That's pretty much standard for the horror genre too. Director James Wong, however, has a deft touch with this material. He maintains suspense and keeps coming up with more clever Rube Goldberg gadgets. Wong, who also co-wrote the screenplay is no novice to this kind of story. He's a producer of several TV series, including "X-Files," "The Others," "Millenium" and "Space, Above and Beyond." Kristen Cloke starred in the latter.
Wong is obviously a very talented and clever fellow. Let's hope he doesn't get caught up in the trap of doing sequels to this movie. Once is enough. Wong does have affection for the genre, however. Wong and the other writers chose Alex's surname in the film, Browning, as a tribute to Todd Browning who made "Freaks" and "Dracula." Billy's (another plane crash survivor played by Seann William Scott) surname is Hitchcock, as in Alfred Hitchcock, maker of "Psycho" and a host of other great films. Valerie Lewton's name is in honor of Val Luten, whose credits include "Cat People." I hope Wong tries for something more ambitious next time. How about another X-Files movie? "Final Destination" rates a B.
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