Death is a jerk. He/she/it is not satisfied with blowing up a jet full of high school kids, babies, and the handicap. No, it needs to take the people who didn’t board that plane with him to the furthest reaches of oblivion too. This is all to apparently feed an insatiable appetite for, well that’s one of life’s great mysteries and this a review of a dead teenager movie.
That said, Death is a nice enough guy/girl/thing to give someone visions of their impending doom so they can prevent accidents. This doesn’t make a lot sense considering how quickly this could land Death on the unemployment line.
If anything, credit is due to writers Glen Morgan and James Wong for giving Final Destination a rather unique killer. Unlike other films that rely on a masked crazy with a knife, Final Destination only needs a shaking tea kettle to generate a scare or tension. It is, for the most part, effective horror, even if the end result doesn’t differ from the slasher movie norm.
Later sequels would ditch the idea that Death is a physical entity. Here it has the power to hide its tracks, although less so after the initial kills. Death is hardly a clean worker. The first post-plane crash kill has water receding back into a leaky toilet. The rest of the murders are straightforward, despite a brief flash of some smoky apparition appearing before the victim.
Sadly, for all of the ingenuity involved in the concept, the rest of the film is a mess of high school clichés. How any talented, competent Hollywood writer can sit down and write a laundry list of clichéd teens is baffling. Does every school have the jerk jock with the pretty girlfriend, the one-liner spewing dumb kid, the hero with a close best friend, and his eventual girlfriend? The names and characters are far less memorable than the increasingly violent deaths, and problem that causes any non-death scene to become an immeasurable bore.
For instance, Alex (Devon Sawa) is rushing to his teachers home. She has already met her fate, yet audiences are stuck watching Alex stumble through a forest to get there. There’s no tension left if the killer has already struck, and in Valerie’s (Kristen Cloke) case, he has struck multiple times.
The sequels to Final Destination know what worked, the second opening with a fantastic accident that becomes the memorable moment of the film. It also chose to up the gore to obscene levels, because apparently Death became unsatisfied with a knife to the chest after this movie. However, that is what audiences came to see, and if the massive pile-up that opened the second film is the most memorable of the franchise so far, it must be the best. Or at least, the best on a sliding scale concerning the Final Destination films. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Final Destination comes to hi-def in a relatively bland VC-1 encoded transfer. Sharpness is fair, flesh tones come and go in terms of accuracy, and detail is routinely uninspired. Noise is a sporadic problem, although only a distraction early as Alex looks at the plane. The nose is littered with video noise.
The encode also struggles with the grain structure, especially around the 23 minute mark on the solid white walls. The grain appears digital and unnatural. The source carries a few specks, but it otherwise pristine. Black levels are typically muted, and depth is flat as a result. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
The low-end rumblings of this TrueHD mix are truly special. As the plane in the beginning of the film starts giving out, the subwoofer kicks in with room shaking bass. Thunderstorms are typically loud and crisp. A house explosion is spectacular near the end.
The finale delivers on all counts, with thunder filling the sound field, a stray power line zipping into all channels, and fire roaring. Aside from the action sequences, this is a rather flat track, with minimal positional audio. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
A somewhat overdone extras set includes three commentaries. The first focuses on the technical aspects with director James Wong, producer Glen Morgan, editor James Colbentz, and writer Jeffery Reddick. The actors chime in with their thoughts on the second track, including Devon Sawa, Kerr Smith, Kristin Cloke, and Chad E. Donella. Finally, composer Shirley Walker speaks over her isolated score about her work.
Three deleted scenes are slightly redundant if you’ve watched the featurette The Perfect Souffle, which focuses on test screenings and how the film changed because of them. Premonitions will get the skeptics rolling as this 20 minute piece follows an Intuitive Investigator and her work. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]