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Final Destination   B+

New Line Cinema

Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: R
Director: James Wong
Writers: Glen Morgan, James Wong, Jeffrey Reddick
Cast: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Seann William Scott, Amanda Detmer, Chad Donella, Brendan Fehr, Tony Todd.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

What if today you unknowingly set in motion the chain of events that will ultimately lead to your death? Fate could catch up to you today, tomorrow, or 80 years from now. But what if you could avoid doing that one little insignificant thing that will surely lead to your demise -- like drinking the hot coffee you already had in a cup instead of pouring it out and refilling it with a colder drink. While such things may seem inconsequential, Final Destination thought-provokingly shows how one arbitrary action can lead up to one's death.

Final Destination opens with an intense sequence that'll make sure that those who already have a fear of flying never board an airplane. Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) is going on a school trip to France with a group of classmates. After he boards the plane, he has a terrifying hallucination of the plane exploding after takeoff. He leaps from his seat, yelling that the plane is going to explode, and he is forced off the plane, along with several other students and a teacher. Sure enough, the plane explodes just minutes after takeoff. Alex, the teacher (Kristen Cloke), and four other students have "escaped" death, but now death must settle the score. Once the body count starts piling up, two FBI agents pin poor Alex as their prime suspect.

Now that watching masked killers run around butchering teenagers who know too much about horror movies has become so dull, it's refreshing to see Final Destination taking a more original route. There's no killer running around here, but the death scenes are some of the most creative and gruesome the genre has seen in a long time. They're gut-wrenching, fun, and suspenseful all at once. Keep in mind, they do stretch believability quite a bit, but I won't knock it for that. Final Destination also teaches us that wind foreshadows death and all liquids are evil.

While I didn't much care for Devon Sawa in last year's Idle Hands, here he shows that he's actually got some acting chops. Ali Larter, as his pseudo-love interest, is also good, even if her role is underwritten. Actually most of the supporting roles are kinda weak -- especially Carter (played by Dawson's Creek's Kerr Smith), whose sole purpose is to act mean and stupid and illicit no sympathy whatsoever. Ah, but I'm griping over minor details, since the movie is a truly thrilling ride from beginning to end.

Final Destination was written by X-Files veterans Glen Morgan and James Wong, based on an original script by Jeffrey Reddick. They've made the transition from intelligent TV dramatic thriller to clever teen horror movie without sacrificing their artistic integrity. Director Wong makes Final Destination creepy and unsettling while still managing to inject some quirky humor into the proceedings. But the cameo appearance from Candyman Tony Todd does feel unnecessary.

Although there seems to be a lot of dispute over the ending, I loved it. It's not the ending the filmmakers originally intended, though. After a poor test screening of the original ending, New Line sent them out to re-shoot some more footage and put together another one. I'm curious as to which ending I would have liked more, but we'll all just have to wait for the DVD for that. As it is, Final Destination is a scary, fun, and stylish teen horror film -- the best of its kind since the original Scream.

Review published 03.24.2000.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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