The Final Destination
By Janey Pancake
Oddly enough, I can attribute some of my affection for the franchise to Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, a film that I watched at a young age with my father, sister and brother during one of our dad’s post-divorce visits. I have a weird, emotional attachment to that movie for several reasons – family nostalgia and Johnny Depp notwithstanding – A Nightmare on Elm Street was the first horror film that I saw which successfully unified the horror film trinity of being scary, funny and just…gross. Certainly I have seen much better movies in the horror genre since then (George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In have 40 years of excellent horror movies between them and represent the best of the best in my humble opinion.) and yet there remains a special place in my cold, black heart for movies that feature geyser-like eruptions of blood.
It is just this type of feature that undoubtedly turns up in the Final Destination series that endears itself to me so. I have seen three of the four films in the series (the fourth installment of the franchise, The Final Destination, opens this Friday, August 28th), the premise of each is identical and as such, completely interchangeable. To wit: in Final Destination, Final Destination 2 and Final Destination 3 the lead character experiences a premonition of a very elaborately orchestrated, convoluted accident resulting in multiple fatalities (including their own) and upon pain of death, the recipient of said precognition wakes from a dream-like state to find that they are alive in the present pending their inevitable demise. This person will then completely freak-out, refusing passage on the doomed (airplane, highway and roller coaster, respectively) and will drag others into the fracas as well. This group – usually furious with the lead character – will then witness the very accident that the lead character has already “seen” during their premonition. The accidents themselves, it should be noted, are a vision splendid. Grisly, violent, bloody and horrible, they play out like a Rube Goldberg machine and are a treat to behold – and that is just the beginning! In the FD canon, members of the surviving group have only cheated death temporarily – as the film progresses, the remaining survivors succumb to fates more ill than that which they had previously escaped, perishing in even more disgusting and humiliating ways. As a rule, by the first or second survivor death, the lead protagonist and his or her love interest will be wise to Death’s Plan* and will spend the remaining time of the film trying to convince the other survivors of this theory while simultaneously attempting to circumvent Death a second time.
The most awesome part? They never do. Ever.
At the end of the day, they all die (in one instance, Ali Larter’s character – the insipidly named, Clear Rivers – survives the first film, but only to voluntarily commit herself in a mental institution whereupon she perishes in an explosion during the second film.) and with each subsequent film the character’s are dispatched of in increasingly creative ways. I am giddy – GIDDY – with anticipation for this weekend. If The Final Destination (directed by David R. Ellis – who helmed the second film in the series as well – James Wong directed the first and third) is anything remotely like its predecessors then I am in for a hilarious, disgusting, thrillingly wonderful time.
*In the Final Destination universe, Death is a character. With a Plan. To disrupt The Plan is to provoke Death’s ire, something that will result in not only NOT preventing your demise, but will ensure that your passing is painful, gross, embarrassing and a bunch of people are going to see it.
Death is but a door through which we all must pass, it’s best to just roll with it.