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Review by Dustin Putman
2½ stars out of 4
For the uninitiated, 2000's "Final Destination" told the cleverly
nightmarish story of a 17-year-old boy who has a premonition that
the airplane he and his classmates are about to take off in for France
is going to explode. Causing a ruckus, he and several other students
and a teacher are kicked off, only to moments later see the plane
obliterate before their eyes. The catch was that they were meant to
die onboard the plane and, because they caused a rift in Death's design,
were picked off one by one in a series of seemingly natural accidents.
The sleeper hit was taut, scary, and surprisingly smart for a teen-oriented
horror flick, not to mention destined for a sequel.
Convinced not to change what worked in the past, director David R.
Ellis has crafted "Final Destination 2" as more of a slightly skewered
remake, with only one major returning character (played by Ali Larter).
As such, "Final Destination 2" could be categorized as more of the
same (equally taut, equally scary, and, well...about half as smart).
It all works much more successfully than it should, and its lack of
narrative creativity this time around is more than made up for by
a series of insanely gruesome death scenes that rank as some of the
most original ever to grace the silver (or should I say red?) screen.
As the movie begins on the one-year anniversary of the Flight 180
plane disaster, happy-go-lucky teenager Kimberley Corman (A.J. Cook)
says good-bye to her dad and sets out with three friends for a trip
to Daytona Beach. Just as she is about to pull out on the freeway,
she has a horrifying premonition (seen in great detail) that a major
deadly traffic pile-up is about to occur. In a panic, Kimberly blocks
off the ramp she is on so the vehicles behind her can't merge, only
to witness the fatal accident moments later (tragically, her friends
are still killed by an out-of-control tractor-trailer). When one of
the survivors ends up dying the next day, Kimberly becomes convinced
that what happened a year ago is starting up again for her and the
rest of the people she saved. If there is one thing she finds out
when she enlists the help of last year's sole survivor Clear Rivers
(Ali Larter), it is that you can't cheat death.
The 20-minute setup of "Final Destination 2" is its best section.
The amount of dread director David R. Ellis is able to create is almost
unthinkable, and the brilliantly intense depiction of the traffic
accident is a veritable tour de force of stuntwork, frighteningly
real special effects, and fabulous editing, milking every moment for
maximum suspense. By the time it's over, you may find yourself emotionally
worn out and edgy, only to realize the movie still has 80 minutes to go.
The rest of "Final Destination 2" is obvious in its plot developments,
as it becomes clear that the rest of the survivors will meet grisly
ends one at a time. As in the original, the protagonist (in this case
Kimberly) even figures out in what order they'll meet their maker.
The fun of the film, then, comes from not knowing how they will die,
and the Rube Goldberg-inspired devices employed this time around are
more deliriously elaborate, intentionally drawn-out, nailbitingly
tense, and startlingly graphic. "Final Destination 2" bucks the recent
annoying trend of PG-13 horror movies ("Signs," "The Ring," "They,"
"Darkness Falls," etc.) by offering up a no-holds-barred string of
grotesque sequences as gory and extreme as almost any R-rated film
in recent memory. These set-pieces--the cream of the crop for any
respectable slasher pic--will have you simultaneously screaming, gasping
in repulsion, and nervously laughing at its sly sense of humor in
just how far the filmmakers are! willing to take them.
What makes up the rest of "Final Destination 2," alas, is not as satisfying
or firmly thought-out this time at bat. The characters are not given
a chance to breathe as three-dimensional figures, and the film's twists
and turns are too preposterous to believe for a second. From the climactic
hospital sequence until the end is a progressive downward spiral that
feels rushed, sloppy, and in the case of one of the major characters'
unfortunate fate, thoroughly ill-considered.
Ali Larter (2001's "Legally Blonde") reprises her role as Clear Rivers,
accurately playing her as an emotionally worn-down young woman who
may still be alive, but realizes that it is only a matter of time
before fate has its way with her. It is a shame she doesn't have more
to do, though. Taking over where Devon Sawa's Alex took off, A.J.
Cook (2001's "Out Cold") is serviceable as the premonition-fueled
Kimberly, but doesn't evoke enough emotion in the scenes following
the brutal deaths of her close friends.
Filling out the rest of the potential victims are Michael Landes (2002's
"Hart's War"), as unusually helpful police officer Thomas Burke; Keegan
Connor Tracy (2000's "Duets"), memorable as determined businesswoman
Kat; Terrence 'T.C.' Carson (2000's "U-571"), as token black guy Eugene;
Jonathan Cherry (2002's "They"), humorous as the drugged-out Rory;
Lynda Boyd (2002's "I Spy") and James Kirk (2001's "Head Over Heels"),
touching as mother and teenage son Nora and Tim; David Paetkau (2000's
"Snow Day"), as recent lottery winner Evan; and Sarah Carter, as the pregnant Shania.
Whereas "Final Destination" intermixed thought-provoking notions of
existentialism with its horror, "Final Destination 2" is content to
focus on the latter. The result is an alternately stupid and joyously
innovative slasher freak show where the villain is the invisible hands
of predetermined fate rather than a physical psycho with a butcher
knife. It may not live up to the 2000 original, but it is a worthy
follow-up that works its way under your skin. If my mini-anxiety attack
driving home following the film is any indication, "Final Destination
2," if nothing else, may just give you nightmares for days afterward
at the mere thought of getting onto the highway.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman