Final Destination

Final Destination (2000) movie poster

(2000) dir. James Wong
viewed: 12/27/02

Final Destination is not in the greatest class of horror films (which might not surprise anyone). I say this because, in my opinion, the best horror films are usually genuinely frightening or unsettling, they get under one’s skin and truly effect the psyche. This film lacks that sort of visceral impact almost entirely, but is still quite a fun Hollywood teen horror flick, perhaps a reasonably high rank in a class somewhat below the truly significant films of the genre.

Just before take-off on a flight to Paris, a teenager has a vision of the plane exploding and rants and raves until he and several others are removed from the flight. His vision comes true and then he and the others who “cheated death” are then hunted by death(?), getting killed one by one in a clever variation on the motifs of the genre.

The genre, arguably, might be classified as the “teen slasher film,” in which a group of teenagers is killed one by one in various forms of mutilation. In fact, one of the characteristics of this genre (or sub-genre) is the inventiveness of the various “deaths,” which in a more typical representative of the genre, Friday the 13th (1980) for example, death is meted out by some natural or supernatural embodiment of death. By embodying death, in representing it physically, films of this genre must ultimately attribute some significance behind what the figure represents. When in the case of Friday the 13th, the killer is ultimately revealed to be a vengeful mother (and then in many later sequels her super-powered son from beyond the grave), a backstory and definition evolves, grounding the fears into something concrete, though still highly representational.

In Final Destination, death is merely death, represented by an occasional reflected dark cloud, if at all. It is a force, acting on the real world (even though it acts with an almost Rube Goldberg-type of machination). Death is never referred to as “evil,” it is merely relentless and ubiquitous. This foregrounds the dilemma and the discourse of the film, an obsessive fear of death and the inescapability of fate.

If anything, the film’s greatest short-coming might be its utter lack of emotional connection. The characters are so unaffected by the deaths of others (selfishly and unanalytically preoccupied with their own deaths) that opportunities for some more poetic reflection are totally tossed aside. The film is much more light-hearted in that sense, though in a completely morbid light-heartedness. It plays with these ideas with a humorous level of detatchment, keeping the story moving as it goes. It works well, but fails to bear emotional significance.

I really enjoyed it. I had seen it once before on cable. I bought a copy of it on DVD, which should be a reasonable testament to how much I enjoyed it, especially since I have bought so few.

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