final destination | james wong | glen morgan | jeffrey reddick | devon sawa | ali larter | kerr smith | death | thriller | kristen cloke | daniel roebuck | tony todd | roger guenveur smith | chad donella | seann william scott | amanda detmer | brendan fehr
Film: Final Destination
Director: James Wong
Writer: Glen Morgan, James Wong and Jeffrey Reddick
Starring: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter and Kerr Smith
This was a movie that I remember seeing when it first hit the movie channels growing up. I’m not sure if we got this off of pay per view or not, but regardless, it didn’t take me long to see this one. It was also an interesting time as I seen Devon Sawa, Ali Larter and Seann William Scott in other things around this same time, but wasn’t expecting them in a movie like this. It’s been probably since college that I last saw this movie and it is thanks to Duncan and The Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer Challenge Series for the 2000s. The synopsis is after a teenager has a terrifying vision of him and his friends dying in a plane crash, he prevents the accident only to have Death hunt them down, one by one.
We start this movie off with seeing the room of Alex Browning (Sawa). He is supposed to be going on a field trip to France with his classmates. We get to see some images hinting to things to come later in the movie as well as an interaction with his parents about not ripping off a previous flight tag on his luggage. Alex thinks it is bad luck. He then heads to the airport with his best friend, Tod Waggner (Chad Donella), his brother George (Brendan Fehr) and driven by their father, Larry Gilman.
Alex gets an uneasy feeling about things in the airport. Things distract him and draw his attention, but he’s not sure what they mean. We also get to meet the others that are coming on this trip with him. To name some of the important ones, we have an outcast of Clear Rivers (Larter), a jerk by the name of Carter Horton (Kerr Smith), his girlfriend is Terry Chaney (Amanda Detmer), a guy who is picked on of Billy Hitchcock (Scott) and their teacher Valerie Lewton (Kristen Cloke). Before they get on the flight, Tod convinces Alex they need to use the bathroom where Alex notices John Denver playing. He points out he died in a plane crash.
They get on the plane and we get a scene where Tod won’t switch seats to allow two girls to sit next to each other. Alex agrees though and they take off. Things don’t go well as the plane ends up exploding. We see this is just a dream though. Alex wakes up in a panic and this agitates Carter. The two get in a tussle and are removed along with Billy who was in the way and Terry who went with her boyfriend. Clear exits as well, feeling uneasy and George tells Tod to check on Alex. Valerie gets off as well, having the other teacher get back on the flight.
To their dismay, exactly what Alex said would happen does, the plane explodes. They’re then interrogated by government agents, including Agent Weine (Daniel Roebuck) and Agent Schreck (Roger Guenveur Smith). They know something is up, but they can’t put their finger on it. They become even more suspicious when Tod dies. It is thought to be a suicide, but we see it play out and there are forces at play. It appears Death is correcting its plan that was altered, but can it ever be fully cheated?
Now with the recap out of the way, I’ve already said that this is a movie I haven’t seen in some time, but watching it last night it really is pretty fresh still. I would catch this one whenever it was on movie challenges back in high school and after. I’ve also seen all of the sequels at least once and some of them a few times. For the most part, they’re just fun, but I also think there is an interesting concept we are playing with here.
What is interesting here is that I read this was originally going to be an episode of The X-Files that they decided to flesh out into a feature film. I will say, I do notice inconsistencies with the story that felt like caused by rewrites. The first is that Tod and George are brothers. I did realize this time this was for a French class, not for like a senior trip so that didn’t bother me. There was supposed to be underlying sub-plot that I’m glad they removed where Clear and Alex were in love. The problem though is that there’s a comment she makes that he hasn’t spoken a word to her in school, but then the agents are coming to her to figure out where he is. They clearly weren’t close, so it feels like just some minor issues where they removed things, but didn’t completely clean it up.
I will say though, I do love the idea that Death is an entity. It has a plan for us all. The movie never explains why Alex was given the premonitions. If this movie never gave us a sequel, I don’t need this to be fleshed out and explained. I chalk it up to there are times I get a bad feeling about something and then something bad happens. There’s no rational explanation. As humans we look for patterns and that is really what is happening. There are some that bit a bit cheesy to me where Alex can see a reflection for hints. I could do without that, but I like throwing the magazine and it cutting up a page to bear the name Tod. More of that works. They do really good though with symbolism of things like an owl or the spelling of Tod was used as it means death in German. John Denver also keeps being played and the way he did is an interesting parallel. These are all slight nods that just show care to me and almost giving that Death has a bit of flair for the dramatic.
I also have to give credit to this film. It is not the first one to have elaborate death scenes that play like the game mouse trap. What I like though is that this made it popular and in the horror community we use the term ‘Final Destination’-esque deaths when you get little things that all culminate to the end. With that said, I think for the most part they’re good in this movie. For whatever reason, one of my favorites is Tod throughout the whole series. We do get some CGI, not a lot. I would say the effects are pretty solid overall. There are just a couple times it doesn’t hold up, but it is surprisingly well done. I like the cinematography that makes it feel like we’re right there with Death as it is playing things out.
If I really have any gripes with the movie, it is with the acting. I don’t have a problem with this cast in general. Sawa, Larter and Scott are all solid. There’s a bit of overacting from Sawa and Scott. Larter has some issues with her dialogue, but I think that was probably from rewrites. I don’t like Smiths’ character if I’m honest. Cloke, Roebuck, Roger Smith, Donella and Detmer are all fine though. I do like the cameo from Tony Todd as he is quite creepy here. Plus any time you can give a legend like him screen time, you’re doing it right. I do also love the care to name every character after silent and just after horror icons like Todd Browning, Val Lewton, Robert Weine, F.W. Murnau and Max Schreck to just name a few.
So now with that said, this movie isn’t great by any sense, but this is a popcorn movie that I could legit pop in at any time and just enjoy it. I think that we have a solid concept that doesn’t need to be fleshed out too much and it is an interesting premise for sure. There are some pretty creative deaths here that legit could be accidents or someone could be doing it. The logical explanations do work where you could question things. All of the effects aren’t great, but good enough for me. The acting is a bit average. It doesn’t need to be great as it isn’t the focal point. I would also say the soundtrack is fine, but it doesn’t stand out. I would give this movie above average in my opinion.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10