Final Destination (2000)

(In theaters, March 2000) A cut above the usual teen-horror films, mostly because of some effective directing, interesting set-pieces and a refusal to explain away the horror by some boring random knife-wielding psycho. This time, the enemy is Death itself, and Final Destination does a better job than most horror films at instilling a faint -but genuine- sense of dread, and a lingering feeling of uneasiness after the film is over; I defy you to drive your car back home after the film and not think about stupid random accidents. The airplane’s crash scene is an anthology piece, brutally effective in its realism. Sure, the film is limited in ambition and not entirely successful: Two scenes seem notably out of place (the weirdish morgue segment and the quasi Evil Dead cabin scene) and the death scenes are a bit too cartoonish -not to mention fairly predictable- to be really creepy. (They’re so over-the-top that they can be disposed of by a giggle and a shrug, whereas a more restrained approach would have been far more effective.) Still, it’s not that bad, and any film that ends with that final shot (think about it again…) isn’t entirely bad.

(Second viewing, On DVD, July 2002) I remember being slightly unnerved by this teen horror film when it first came out, and indeed this impression is sustained a second time around. This isn’t some stupid slasher film in which everyone acts like brain-damaged morons; this film stars Death itself, and the convoluted ways in which even the silliest things can become fatal. Just try to drive home afterward without thinking about bad-luck accidents! Suffice to say that this film will creep on you while you won’t expect it, and that it itself is an admirable accomplishment in a subgenre that hasn’t produced any marvels lately. A second look doesn’t do much to assuage my misgivings about the shifting tone of the film and the needlessly gruesome death scenes, but the rest of my initial impression equally holds up. It’s an efficient, clever little supernatural thriller that will keep you on edge better than its counterparts. Dim the lights and see it with someone you trust. The DVD contains a lot of extra, whether it’s two commentary tracks or related featurettes (the best being one about test screenings, and how Final Destination went from having a wussy soft ending to the hard-edged one it currently enjoys.)

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