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Final Destination (1999)
Director: James Wong
review by Jeff Young
Remember all those weirdly elaborate death scenes from classic horror movies like The Omen? Well, they're back to haunt us again in this witty supernatural thriller about predestination but, as the malaise of millennial anxieties fades now, the full impact of this efficient little chiller is resolutely low-key when compared to those earlier theologically inclined spine-chillers.
After boarding a jet bound for Paris on a school trip, young Alex frightens the other passengers after having a vision (which we share) of their plane's midair destruction. His frantic warning only gets him and some friends thrown off the flight - which, of course, promptly explodes after takeoff. From that moment the survivors are doomed as dark and deadly forces close in for the kill - for, as Tony (Candyman) Todd's mischievous undertaker explains, death has designs on us all and will not be cheated.
I'm not going to insist that every film has to have lots of action, lavishly staged spectacle and first class special effects but, where your average generic drama is concerned, these things certainly do help, right? Final Destination boasts a couple of classic movie moments: windows imploding at the airport, blurry reflections of a menacing shadow glimpsed behind victims (this last is a superior visual cue to that signifying demonic powers in the recent remake of House On Haunted Hill), and director James Wong evokes some genuine suspense from tensions among the predominantly young cast, all the way to the film's exciting climax. Shocking death scenes, lurid atmospheric imagery and moody teenagers are not the entire package though. There are thought-provoking ideas here, too: tragic coincidence or sheer bad luck? Can individual freewill affect probability? Are we in control of our destinies?
As a film virtually without a plot, Final Destination is a triumph of irrational mortal fears and the glories of mise en scène over traditional movie storytelling. Please leave your brain resting in another room for maximum viewing pleasure.
previously published in VideoVista #20
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