A group of high schoolers avoid a catastrophic death by getting kicked off a plane when one has a vision of the plane exploding just after takeoff. He freaks out, causes a commotion, and all involved are left in the airplane terminal to watch the plane leave the pavement. The initial response is that he’s ruined their senior trip. On the horizon, the plane’s explosion occurs, causing intense suspicion of the boy who predicted it—a fun little paranoia in the pre-9/11 universe. Soon after, the survivors are picked off, one by one, in particularly gruesome deaths. Except, there’s no physical murderer; no one seeking revenge for the death of those who remained on the plane, nor a psycho who wants to ensure that those who avoided death are still delivered to its feet. No, in Final Destination, death is the killer.
What of the creepy person on the horizon, watching from afar? What about someone being stalked through the woods? What about being trapped & alone in a house up the hill? Final Destination does provide all of these, plus a healthy amount of 90s slasher frights, false alarms, and nerdy references. Except, in lacking a physical killer, the person on the horizon has been reworked: Alex Browning, the boy who had the explosive vision, has figured out that death itself is coming for the survivors in the order they would’ve died on the plane. He begins checking in on people when he expects their deaths to occur—to the attention of the FBI agents who suspected foul play in the plane explosion. These agents also become the stalkers in the woods, and those who prevent Alex from saving Ali Larter’s “depressed art girl” character, Clear Rivers, from her house on the hill.
Looking back on Final Destination, the first film in a long line of sequels, novels, and comic book adaptations, there’s a distinct charm in what it was attempting: co-opting the slasher flick, it replaced the killer with a presence that takes on the form of extremely bad luck. It’s a slasher film without the slasher. There’s still teen romance and a few chuckles delivered from stereotypes and visual cues: Sean William Scott plays a blockheaded jock named Hitchcock—even sporting a letterman jacket with his name sprawled across the back. The film literally wears its inspirations on its sleeve, albeit goofily.
If you’re someone who’s more scared of ghastly presences & superstition, Final Destination was made for you. If you’re someone who sees Halloween as the ultimate champion of horror, Final Destination is still fun! The tension built around brushes with death alone make the film a worthwhile watch–once the deaths actually occur, there’s a disturbing sigh of relief. Watch it with a beer and chill out.
For the month of February, Nitehawk Cinema will be showing 1990s teen horror flicks at midnight on the weekends, as part of their Death Candy series. Be sure to catch Final Destination this weekend, February 24th & 25th.