Final Destination (2000)

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Once again, I’ll reiterate that to make a good horror movie, it helps to have a good concept. I say it helps. This does not guarantee a good movie. On top of your award winning concept, one requires good writing, acting and camera angles among other things. Valentine is an example of a horror movie with a good gimmick, but little follow through in plot development, characters, and overall story.

Final Destination had a great concept, but it also had the advantage of a tight and well rounded story. It begins with a high school seniors’ class trip to France. One of the students, Alex (Devon Sawa: Now and Then), has a premonition of the plane blowing up and killing his classmates. He is so frightened by what he saw that he tries to warn as many of his classmates off the plane as possible. Since this premonition came out of nowhere, many of the students laugh him off. A handful of students believe him, and a teacher takes Alex and another student he was fighting with off the plane right before takeoff. Of course, not long after the plane leaves the runway, it explodes.

This event makes headlines, naturally, and the class commencement ceremony is a sad one. FBI agents, however, are a little suspicious that Alex predicted the explosion and knew enough to get off the plane and warn as many people as possible. They decide to follow and watch him. This is interesting because as it turns out, the survivors of the plane crash start to die one by one in very unusual ways.
The reason the survivors start to die off is simple. It is not a masked maniac, Satan, radioactive zombies, killer tomatoes, cannibal families or mutant bunnies. The gimmick of this film is that the killer is Death itself and its design. Turns out, Alex and the classmates he managed to get off the plane were predestined to die in that plane explosion. They only managed to avoid Death, so in retaliation, Death sets out to claim the lives promised to him in the most painful and absurd manner possible.

One by one, our cannon fodder meets Death up close and personal. It seems that Death is Rube Goldberg because some of the death scenes get pretty elaborate. One girl is hit by a bus, which is nondescript enough, but the way one other boy trips and falls in the shower, somehow managing not only to strangle himself in the tub, but make it look like he hung himself was just outright silly, as was the scene where the teacher accidentally set her own house on fire while accidentally stabbing herself in the stomach as a piece of metal lodges itself into her neck.
I know very little about death, but I was under the impression that the Grim Reaper can kill you with a mere touch. The reasons for the cartoonish nature of the deaths couldn’t be explained by anyone, even the mortician that seemed to know about Death’s inner workings in the film far beyond his profession, played to creepy and enjoyable extremes by Tony Todd of Candyman fame. Maybe the writers wanted to make this film as garish as possible to make it more interesting, or maybe Death wanted his fifteen minutes of fame. The world may never know, but the concept alone gives film makers enough material to spawn more than a few sequels.

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