Final Destination 2

(David R. Ellis, USA, 2003)


The Final Destination films do not stand up to much philosophical scrutiny. "Death itself", as we are repeatedly told, basically runs the show. It shadows each of us at every moment, waiting for our final moment to arrive within the scheme of its "grand design". Unless, that is, we somehow cheat Death, thus causing it to come after us with a vengeance.

The signs of imminent death are everywhere, if only we know how to read them. These signs are the wackiest moments of the Final Destination movies. Death announces itself by a blast of wind, with a chorus of its signature tune (John Denver’s "Rocky Mountain High"), and in a dozen little details of a disturbed, eerie, everyday world.

Final Destination 2 begins exactly like its predecessor two years previously. At the wheel, Kimberley (A. J. Cook) has a premonition of a horrible automobile accident. Pulling over causes her own life and several others to be spared from the ensuing carnage. But soon the survivors start dying – and only Clear (Ali Larter), left over from the original film, can help them.

To keep this simple Stephen King-style premise going, writers Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber (who later made their directorial debut in the same vein with The Butterfly Effect, 2004) start introducing increasingly convoluted and incoherent elaborations.

Can jamming Death’s design cause a "ripple effect"? Will the targets be picked off in forwards or backwards order? Can "new life" cancel this cosmic death-drive? Is there free will? Aren’t we all going to die anyway?

Finally, there is not much more to this film than the familiar slasher spectacle of waiting for characters to bow out in surprising and gruesome ways – especially as their relationships are not as engaging as in the first movie. Director David R. Ellis rather ingeniously heightens the black humour element in these scenes. Dismembered body parts abound.

The Final Destination movies are quickly forgettable, but they are notable for reviving a particular form of comedy known as the catastrophe gag.

A man knocks an ashtray which hits a toy car which rolls into a broom which tips onto a power chord … and pretty soon we have an apocalyptic explosion. Buster Keaton would have admired some of the crazy, split-second, cause-and-effect sequences of devastation in this film.

But enough is enough; Final Destination 3 is not a terribly appetising prospect.

MORE Ellis: Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, Cellular

© Adrian Martin March 2003

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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