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Final Destination 2   B

New Line Cinema

Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Director: David R. Ellis
Writers: J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress
Cast: Ali Larter, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes, David Paetkau, James Kirk, Lynda Boyd, Keegan Connor Tracy, Jonathan Cherry, Tony Todd.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

In a time when most Hollywood horror is of the watered-down PG-13 variety (ala They and Darkness Falls), seeing a ballsy, graphic shocker like Final Destination 2 on the big screen is a bracing experience. The film carries out its Grand Guignol carnage with such perverse glee that it's cruel, delivering over-the-top death scenes that build to some of the most gruesome payoffs ever seen in an R-rated major-studio picture.

In the intense opening, Kimberly (A.J. Cook) and three friends are driving to Daytona in her SUV when she has a vivid premonition of a massive traffic accident that claims many lives. She freaks out and stops the car, preventing those behind her from merging onto the freeway, thereby saving a few lives -- because minutes later, it happens almost precisely as she'd envisioned. But as shown in Final Destination, Death doesn't like being cheated, so he begins setting up intricate death traps for the would-be accident victims. Kimberly won't go down without a fight, though, and she tries to find a way to evade Death's design with the help of a young cop (Michael Landes) and the only survivor from the original (Ali Larter).

As with the original, the elaborate chain-reaction set pieces leading up to each death steal the show. But this one ditches the effectively foreboding mood and atmosphere of the original in favor of heightened absurdity and nastier kills. Aside from the impalings and decapitations, there are two deaths that will go down in the books: one involving a schmuck getting sliced into pieces by barbed wire and the other a moron ("Ooh! Pigeons!") getting crushed by a pane of glass. Gone are the existential musings of its predecessor, but it's just as well since every character here is just a cardboard cutout waiting for their turn to die. As Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine says in his review, "Death itself has been successfully reduced to a punch line." He's right, but I'll be damned if Final Destination 2 isn't a nerve-jangling, gloriously dumb, wickedly funny sick joke of a movie.

Review published 02.11.2003.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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