Spooktober Franchise Review – Final Destination (2000)

So Spooktober has rolled around once again and the tradition with this site is that I review a renowned horror franchise to show how they’re fantastic or are totally poo.

This franchise started out well and it may have gone seriously down hill but as it stands, I’m only really familiar with the first three. I’ve not seen the fourth one and I’ve only seen the fifth once. These are the kind of films where there isn’t a continuing plot from sequel to sequel so you can watch them all out of sequence and it honestly wouldn’t make a difference.

It might sound like I’m really down on the Final Destination films but I’m really not. I really like the first one which was a good idea for a horror film but the following fours films couldn’t get past the concept and so kept the format and changed the characters and you could make the argument that that’s basically the idea for every horror franchise and… so what’s ‘Final Destination’ about?

The initial story concept was by Jeffrey Reddick and had no notable work until then but he did have a connection to New Line Cinema through Robert Shaye (The CEO of New Line Cinema) after Reddick wrote a ten page treatment to ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’. Eventually, Reddick got an internship at New Line and worked there for eleven years. His first draft of what would become ‘Final Destination’ was originally written as a spec script for the ‘X-Files’ but was convinced by a colleague to write it into a feature length script.

New Line bought the treatment and hired Jeffrey to write the script. New Line then approached James Wong to direct and Glen Morgan, his writing partner. They both agreed to make the film on the condition that they re-write the script to incorporate their ideas.

Actually, the concept that this series loves so much is a really good concept. Instead of a psychotic, mask-wearing murderer stalking a load of naïve and horny teenagers, this time it’s Death itself that’s the big bad which I suppose is a given because death is always a worry for any character in a horror film, it really depends on who or what is delivering the death. Well it’s Death. Let me explain.

Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) boards a plane with 40 of his fellow students and two teachers for a school trip to Paris but once he’s on the plane, he has a terrifying vision that the plane explodes moments after take-off, killing everyone including himself. Of course, Alex freaks out and is thrown off the plane along with the school jock, Carter (Kerr Smith) who attacks him for some reason, Carter’s girlfriend, Terry (Amanda Detmer), Billy Hitchcock (Seann William Scott), Alex’s friend, Todd (Chad Donella), Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) and teacher, Valerie Lewton (Kristen Cloke).

Of course, moments after the plane takes off into the distance, it explodes and everyone in the terminal is instantly shocked that it happened, relieved that they survived and terrified of Alex for predicting it.

Naturally, this film is pre-9/11 because if a teenager in America started freaking out on a plane because he knew it was going to explode, the kid would be arrested and thrown in Guantanamo Bay and that’s if he wasn’t gunned down immediately by an Air Marshall.

Naturally, the FBI are curious as to how Alex knew the plane would explode and the best, he can give them was that he ‘had a feeling’ and of course that’s not going to wash. The feds are convinced that Alex has something to do with it even though there is no evidence and he boarded himself onto the plane that was going to explode and tried to warn the other passengers that the plane was going to explode and the authorities conducted an investigation and concluded that it was a mechanical failure rather a direct act of sabotage.

But, Alex has bigger problems. Sometime later, life seems to be returning to normal for everyone but Alex. His best friend, Tod whose brother was on the plane when it blew up, is being kept away from Alex by his parents who blame Alex for the death of their son… presumably. I assumed that was the reason but bear in mind that is Alex hadn’t have freaked out then both of their sons would be dead… Well… it’s complicated.

You see, Tod is later found dead and his death is ruled as a suicide. Alex doesn’t believe that his friend would commit suicide and so he and Clear go to the Mortuary to get some answers. Here is one of the best characters in the whole franchise and that is of ‘Bludworth’ although I never knew his name until I read it on IMDB. It’s Tony Todd’s character. You know? Candyman? Anyway, I love Tony Todd in anything that he’s in, so his character is amazing in ‘Final Destination’. He’s the guy who knows about death and reveals to Alex and Clear that when Alex got all those people off of Flight 180, he interrupted Death’s plan and so Death is coming for all the people who should have died in the explosion.

Before we move on, I just want to point something out. A few of the deaths in this film and indeed this franchise were totally avoidable. Tod’s death is a shining example. Now, I know it’s going to sound weird without a visual reference but I’m sure the clip is on YouTube if you don’t own a copy but have a look at the scene and please tell me if I’m wrong.

You see, Death causes a leak from a pipe in the bathroom that causes Tod to slip and get his neck caught in a drying line that’s over the bathtub. Tod falls into the bathtub and knocks bottles of shampoo into the tub and so is slipping and can’t get a grip, all the while, the line is wrapped around his neck and slowly strangles to death. From what I saw, all he had to do to un-fuck himself was to not freak out, place both his hands on the edge of the tub and push himself up so he can get his knees into the equation, maybe sit on his knees, to take the pressure off his neck and then he can go about removing the line from around his neck. That’s all it would have taken. I know he was slipping on all the shampoo, but that stuff was on the other end of the tub, he could have pushed himself up and taken some of the pressure off. That’s all I’m saying.

It’s also advisable to look both ways before you cross the road, so you don’t end up like Terry. Although, that’s probably a good rule in general.

So now, Alex is convinced that Death has a specific design and he needs to find a way to beat it otherwise all his friends will die and he will too. After watching a news report that describes the path of the explosion, Alex takes the path and lays it over the plane’s seating plan. It shows that his friends are dying in the order they would have died and therefore, Ms Lewton is next.

Her death is particularly long and drawn out with unfortunate event after unfortunate event. She’s already scared of Alex when he starts predicting not only the explosion of Flight 180 but then the deaths of the survivors and so when she spots Alex snooping around her car, she freaks out and calls the FBI who come around and take Alex away. They’re pretty rough with him aswell. Watch yourself, boys. You do know that he’s a minor? Who isn’t armed? And has co-operated every step of the way? And actually hasn’t broken any laws?

Of course, Alex was actually checking her car to make sure everything was OK when what he should have done was knock on her door and tell her to be careful and take precautions to make sure that she doesn’t die. Nope, Alex isn’t the smartest cookie either but all in good time.

Like I said, Ms Lewton’s death is brutal. She goes to brew some tea but ends chucking the hot water out of her coffee mug because it’s got her school emblem on it. She then pours some ice cold vodka into the coffee cup. The drastic change of temperature from red hot to ice cold causes the mug to crack (I think. That would make sense) and dribble vodka all over the floor. Ms Lewton doesn’t notice and rests the cracked and leaking cup on top of her computer monitor and bear in mind that this film came out in 2000 which means that it was filmed in the late 90’s and I haven’t done any research at all but I don’t think flat-screen monitors had been invented yet so she rests this cup on top of an old monitor that had room to rest a cup on. The vodka leaks through the vent at the back and into the circuits. Ms Lewton goes over to the monitor when she hears the crackling sounds and just when she gets to the appropriate distance, the monitor explodes and a piece of glass lodges itself in Ms Lewton’s neck.

Here’s her first mistake, pulling the glass out. That’s a no-no. Everyone knows that if you get something lodged in any part of your body, it’s not wise to yank it out yourself because you don’t know what damage you’ll do and the object may have struck an artery and the object may be the only thing that’s stopping you from bleeding to death.

Ms Lewton’s second mistake was staying in the house. When she’s struck, she falls back against… HER FRONT DOOR! All she had to do was go outside and stumble to a neighbours house where they could help her or call an ambulance. Admittedly, the wound in her neck may already be fatal but going back into the house which by the way is already on fire thanks to the exploding monitor isn’t going to help her.

The next bit did make me laugh because it feels like something that would be in a ‘Scary Movie’ film as it chronicles someone who is having a really bad day. Ms Lewton goes back into the kitchen where she’s knocked onto the floor by another explosion. She sees a dish cloth draped over the edge of her kitchen counter and reaches for it having completely forgotten that she threw the same dish cloth over a knife block. She grabs and tugs at the cloth, bring the knife block with it and the largest knife ends up in her chest.

In comes Alex. He’s been released from the FBI and goes back to Ms Lewton’s house. He sees that the house is on fire and goes in to the house to save his teacher. He sees her on the floor with a slashed neck and the knife in the chest. As he tries to comfort her, we the audience can see what he’s thinking and we’re all going “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!”. But he does it. He takes the knife out of her chest and gets his fingerprints all over it. Alex makes it out of the house just before it explodes without wiping his fingerprints off the knife.

Now comes the twist.

According to the list, Carter is next to die. Alex calls a meeting with Carter, Billy and Clear. Carter starts to freak out whilst they are driving and stops his car on the train tracks. Alex, Clear and Billy get out of the car as there is a train coming but Carter stays put. He decides that he doesn’t want to die but Death begs to differ. Carter’s car stalls and his door and seatbelt jam. He’s stuck and panicking so Alex steps in and pulls Carter out of the car window just in time. Carter has been saved by Alex and I can imagine that Death is pissed so as the train passes, a jagged piece of metal is caught in the rails, flings up and cuts off half of Billy’s head.

By the way. I watched the movie a few days ago and I spotted something that I never noticed before. After Alex pulls Carter out of the car, the front of Carter’s pants look like they’re wet. I don’t think his pants look like that in the scene at the memorial. I don’t know though because none of the characters seem to acknowledge that he has this huge wet patch down the front of his pants. In all fairness, if it is piss, then he was nearly squashed by a train. That is a pant-wetting situation. And whilst Alex was pulling him out of the car, the seatbelt was digging into his pelvis. That’s an accident waiting to happen.

I’m positive that it’s there but anyway.

Alex cracks the riddle. Because Alex saved Carter, Death skipped Carter and moved onto Billy. Now Billy is dead, Alex is next. Clear offers to hide him out from the FBI at her cabin and Alex accident-proofs everything to the point where he has to put on a pair of heavy duty gloves just to eat a small can of… goopy stuff.

Then, Alex realises something. In his vision, he swaps places with a girl so she and her friend can sit together and that put him next to Tod for the explosion. The original seating plan didn’t account for that so he realises that he is not in fact next… Clear is!

Alex races to her house, avoiding the Feds and almost dying twice for some reason because he is not actually next but anyway. Clear realises that Death is after her because she has a similar ‘ESP’ thing to Alex but not to the same extent. She ends up trapped in her car by an errant power cable but it’s Alex to the rescue. He tells her that if he saves her then it will be over but Clear loves him and begs him not to. Alex grabs the cable just as Clear gets out and her car explodes, blowing Alex back into the garage. The police arrive and Clear rushes to Alex, touching his body even though he’s just been electrocuted but it’s OK because Death isn’t after her anymore.

Six months later, Alex is revealed to have survived the electrocution and he is friends with Carter as well as in a relationship with Clear. The three get off a plane in Paris, completing the trip that they couldn’t finish or even start. There’s one last twist. As they chat about their ordeal, Alex realises that Death didn’t skip him so it’s not really over. Alex starts to freak out and Clear foresees a bus so she shouts at him and Alex misses being hit by a bus. A series of unfortunate events unfolds that shows the bus hitting a street light that falls into and dislodges a neon sign that heads straight for Alex but Carter intervenes and pushes Alex out of the way. Carter stands up and Alex reminds him that he’s just saved his life so death has officially skipped him. Carter asks who is next? He’s too busy asking questions and doesn’t notice the huge neon sign saying ‘180’ slam into him.

The End.

All in all, great movie. It’s not perfect but I have yet to see a perfect movie however, it’s still a great movie. One trend that I have noticed and is the very reason that I like the ‘Friday the 13th‘ movies and such is that this is a series that is driven by ideas. Not so much ideas in terms of changing the format but interesting in terms of the death scenes. This is a series that knows how to kill it’s characters and it puts almost all of it’s effort into that.

‘Final Destination’ had a budget of $23 Million and took in a remarkable $112.9 Million at the box office.

I’m going to be fair and say that ‘Final Destination’ received ‘mixed’ reviews. All the negative ones can go fuck themselves because although there are some bumps and like I say, I have yet to see a perfect movie, I’d quite happily take ‘Final Destination’ over ‘Found Footage, Jumpscare Fest 587’.

And actually, this film won awards. The film won a Saturn Award for the ‘Best Horror Film of 2000’ and Devon Sawa won a Saturn Award for ‘Best Performance by a Young Actor’ in the same year. And finally, the plane sequence was listed number 46 in ‘Bravo’s 100 Greatest Scary Moments’.

So there you go, the first ‘Final Destination’. I really liked this movie and no matter how dreadful the rest of the series may become, it still has a place in horror cinema history.

Here we go… Spooktober has started.

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