Saturday, October 1, 2011

Death goes Goldberg: Final Destination (2000)

Final Destination (2000)
rating: ****
starring: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter and Kerr Smith

If only real life deaths were this exciting (knocks on wood) but Final Destination marks the new millennium as the year a unique take on the dead teenager movies, one that is a "slasherless" slasher movie would be successful.

I was skeptical at first, too, but somehow Death found a way to toy with our lives with much creativity and, most importantly, terror all thanks to one director James Wong.

Just in case you, the reader, is the kind unfortunate soul who hadn't seen or heard of this film yet, Final Destination is about one 13th of May, when an Alex Browning (Sawa Devon) was boarding a plane with his class for a school trip in France. Unwillingly, Alex kept getting the feeling that someone, or something isn't right; strange song selections, wisps of wind, people eyeing on "the End", by the time he got on board it was too late. An engine explodes, incinerating everyone in sight, him included. But just when you think this is the end, it isn't.

We suddenly moves away towards an unblinking eye and reveals all of it as no more than a premonition; Alex starts to warn others in hysteria but only a handful of people got off. After being thrown off the plane, they see to their horror that the plane does in fact explodes, killing hundreds.

The incident turned Alex into an outcast as many parents and friends of the deceased, and even some teachers, felt uneasy being near him. But after a month, those who survived the crash starts to die off one by one. Alex is now convinced that Death must be trailing the loose end to his design and must now work out its plan, preventing the worst from happening, all the while dodging the FBI, who began to suspect Alex may had a thing or two to do with the accidents...

More psychological and puzzling than a slasher whodunit, Final Destination is a "howdunit"(as Vegan Voorhees calls it in his blog. Hey Hud!) , with our main casts trying to figure out who will die off before the other and how.

And "how" is where the movie gets the creative; more imaginative than Jason's most recent "roast sleeping bag kill", Final Destination put Rube Goldberg's cartoonish idea to a much vividly and terrifying twist as everyday objects and situations are put into Death's plan. While not altogether brutal, the deaths are scary by the fact that some of this CAN happen in real life if you're not too careful. Simple objects can lead to one disaster isn't really that rare nowadays, as simple miscalculations can kill you, an idea so terrifying that it even scar my psyche enough to make sure I don't change the temperature of my drinking mugs or glasses so suddenly or else I'll get a damn hot shard on my neck. 

Devon Sawa plays our first teen seer in the franchise as our troubled Alex Browning, who suddenly found himself in a Hitchcokian situation where weird shit happens to ordinary folks like him. He's the very definition of a teen hero in a horror flick, lost between the real world and his own, trying to find a way to save a life, not because he wants to, but because he needs to, a similar twist of fate another character he played in another supernatural slasher, "Idle hands (1999)". Other casts includes Kerr Smith as Carter Horton, a jerk-jock who picks on Alex for the seeming purpose of just existing in his life as well as CANDYMAN's title actor Tony Todd in a more ambiguous role as William Bludworth, a coroner who knows more about death than anybody else.

The premonition is indeed catastrophic enough to pull through struggling, and providing a massive bodycount, but Alex found a way to get passed by it, if only that was the end of it. The film struggles, just as Alex did on saving everyone, on how to keep the suspense going and keep the audience guessing. This is when editing came into place, and at times it fails to be as good as the complicated death scenes. Special effects on the deaths, though servicable, often misses being "special" themselves with cheap CGI (but considering this is 2000, I'm willing to look over that). Despite these minor flaws, FD still retains its mood and atmosphere, getting tenser and tenser to the climax.

Final Destination was a certified hit, and was indeed too good to just end with one movie, not with an open ending like that. Ten Years of running with death, the film later became a big franchise, with another two films planned being shot back to back after the successful run of its fifth entry. Looking back at the original is like a quick glance on a promising start; while some of the film failed to beat the standard fear this film created, they are special on their own terms, just as Final Destination is held special for its unique premise and plot, and an idea so big, its catastrophically good.

280 passengers incinerated in an exploding plane
1 male accidentally snared and hanged himself in a bathtub
1 female run over by bus
1 female penetrated by knife in the gut
1 male decapitated by the mouth by a flying metal shard
1 male crushed by a giant sign
total: 285

(note: Alex browning dies in between this film and its sequel. His death is later mentioned in the sequel, involving a freak accident with a brick to the face.)

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