Dir. James Wong (2000)
After a high school student foretells a plane crash and is kicked off his flight with a handful of his classmates, he soon discovers that death will not be denied.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Ahhh, the movie that made me (and, I’m sure, a lot of you) afraid of planes. To be honest, I always knew that planes could crash, but flying never really bothered me before I saw this film. I think it’s largely because the opening sequence, one of the best in horror, showed all the ways that you could horrifically die during a plane crash, and it ain’t just hitting a mountain or something. When Final Destination hit the scene in 2000, it not only created a brand new, much-beloved franchise, but it also brought gore into the mainstream and helped to pave the way for the Saw franchise and the rest of 2000’s horror.
Final Destination was such a brilliant concept for a movie, and it didn’t start a franchise just because it made a lot of money. It was a truly great idea, the theory that Death comes for us all in an orderly way because, no matter what we do, Death cannot be stopped. The film is filled with bloody kills, the best of which is the shocking scene where a gal is hit by a bus outside a coffee shop. While it’s easy to see the foreshadowing and immediately know what’s coming in that scene, I can honestly say that when however-old-I-was aged me saw this in theaters it blew my damn mind.
It’s also interesting just how much of this film was demonstrably pre-9/11. You remember when Hare Krishnas could be in airport terminals, harassing people to sign up for their extra-weird religion? Remember when you could talk about a plane blowing up in the airport and, when the plane actually blew up, not being escorted on a military flight to Guantanamo? Those were the days, right? The film also absolutely brings to mind the Saw franchise. Saw is the result of what would happen if Death from the FD franchise was a person whose actions could be physically seen. The creativity of the FD franchise, however, was second-to-none, including Saw and its sequels.
There’s not an extreme amount of gore in this film, especially not when compared to the films that followed, but it was inventive, gnarly, and downright fun to watch. It still falls firmly within the realm of teen horror movies, but it was smarter than most and kept you guessing how these characters were all going to meet their gruesome ends. It’s incredible how much tension and anxiety can be created simply because there’s not a human killer lurking in the shadows. If anyone was to tell you, hey, there’s not someone in your house that’s trying to kill you, that should make you feel better. But if you’re in the Final Destination franchise, you’d almost rather there be some psycho with a knife, because you could conceivably fight him off. You can’t do shit when its Death itself that is out to get you, as explained by Tony Todd in one of the best cameo roles in horror history.
Tony Todd could make a bologna sandwich scary.
On a side note: Final Destination is an excellent beginner’s entry into gore films. There’s enough in there that it’s relatively tame for people who only want to dip a toe, but if you find yourself rewinding and pausing the part where Stiffler’s head gets chopped off, there are plenty more horror films to fully immerse yourself in that same feeling. The brilliance of Final Destination is that it’s not just for those who appreciate gore, either. It’s just a fun, smart teen horror movie, and usually you only get one of those descriptors when talking about teen horror films. Final Destination is a fantastic movie, and it’s one of those that actually deserved as many sequels as it got.
Who this movie is for: All horror fans, Fans of mainstream teen horror films, People who don’t want to learn French
Bottom line: The Rube Goldberg designs that kill each character in the film are incredibly exciting to watch develop, and they’re not as seemingly off-the-wall as some of the deaths in the followup films. I don’t know that the makers of this film thought they would be making an often-imitated instant classic, but make it they did. Final Destination is an every-year-at-least rewatch for me, and it certainly should be for you as well.