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Final Destination 2
Reviewed by Jason Myers, © 2003

Format: Movie
By:   David Ellis (Director)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   January 31, 2003
Review Date:   February 04, 2003
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)
In 2000, Final Destination managed to scare up a little over 50 mil at the box office. And while Final Destination was probably the most satisfying of the post-Scream horror crop, it didn't exactly beg for a sequel, especially one where the original writer and director didn't stick around for seconds.

So I went into the theater with very low expectationsÖ

Ö and left 90 minutes later with a big grin on my face.

In the original, a teen has a vision that his plane is going to explode, and he gets himself and several of his schoolmates thrown off the plane. The plane takes off, blows up, and the kids have seemingly missed their appointment with death. But that's okay, because Death is willing to reschedule. Muhahahaha.

In Final Destination 2, a teen (named Kimberly Corman, in honor, I'm sure, of B-film king Roger Corman)Ö has a premonitionÖ about a highway crash. The concept is pretty, um, pedestrian, but Final Destination 2 earns high marks for execution. And I do mean execution, baby. The crash sequence is a jaw-dropping, cringe-inducing festival of human roadkill that'll make you want to throw up, and thow away your car keys.

Festival of human roadkill. That's a good thing, right? I thought so. And if that makes me a sick, bloodthirsty Roman, then what does it say about the theater full of people who were screaming/laughing/cheering through the whole thing? Of course, what's important here is not the amount of gore, but the sheer maniacal intensity of it all. The director, David Ellis, has had 20 years experience doing stunts and stunt coordinating, and he brings a real maestro's touch to the crash sequence, and to the other scenes of orchestrated mayhem that spatter the film in arterial red.

There were a few key elements that made the original Final Destination stand out. One was its metaphysical philosophy. The idea that Death has a design, that the universe is a giant interlocking clockwork machine made of little gears and levers that humans think of as chance or coincidence, but which are actually the tools Death uses to take each person in the hour Death itself has chosen. Another element was the idea that Death might kill you with something massive, like an explosion, or might instead nudge chance here and there in order to construct a cosmic Rube Goldberg mechanism that's just as fatal.

You know what a Rube Goldberg machine is, even if you're not familiar with the name. It's an incredibly complicated mechanism that's made to accomplish an incredibly simple task, favored by Looney Toons and Tom and Jerry animators, as well as Pee Wee Herman. We made a Rube Goldberg machine in physics class once. We sculpted a clay likeness of our physics teacher, Mr. Reitz (who, by the way, is, in his own words, "not pencil-thin"), and sat him in the center of a detached toilet seat with the lid propped up. Then, with Matchbox cars and strings and dominoes and a mousetrap and various other household items, we started a chain reaction that ended with the propped-up toilet lid falling down to smoosh the effigy of Mr. Reitz like a plump bearded Mr. Bill (The toilet-flushing sound was not actually part of the Rube Goldberg machine, but I think it earned us points for presentation).

In any case, the cinematic effect of the Rube Goldberg mentality was that it turned everyday objects into instruments of destruction. And if you're thoughtful, or imaginative, or paranoid, or a little of each, you wind up carrying that "danger lurks everywhere" mentality out of the theater and into everyday life. When you're in a department store, you could trip on a pair of socks someone had dropped, slide across the aisle, go headfirst over the clearance table, and catch your neck in the noose of a leather purse strap. Someone runs over to help you, their sleeve catches on an errant hanger, and they topple into you with their full weight, spinning you both forward and down, and impaling your Adam's apple on a the metal arm of a hat display. Sure, that would never happenÖ but I'd watch my step if I were you.

Probably the most important element of Final Destination, at least as far as box office success goes, was the film's brutal sense of humor and sadistic comic timing. And Final Destination 2 takes that element and turns it up to 11. So much so that it makes the first movie look thoughtful and mature by comparison. But so what. That whole scene at the dentist's office is pure genius, as is the one at the lottery-winner's apartment, and one death in particular is so cool that I don't want to mention any of its elements so as not to spoil the surprise.

Overall, the sequel does a pretty good job of tying itself into the original, in concept if not in tone. Ali Larter reprises her role as Clear Rivers. Tony Todd, too, is back, once again collecting a paycheck for a 90-second cameo as mortician Bill Bludworth. His one scene is crammed tight with cheesy black humor, ominous horror movie vagueries and ick moments, and then ends with Todd making a hilarious gesture as if to say, "What do want from me? I'm just here to crack eerie deep-voiced gallows humor and menace you with cryptic remarks."

As is often the case, I've got some qualms about dubious film-maker logic. A PLAGUE OF SPOIL(ER)S IN THIS PARAGRAPH. PASS OVER THIS PARAGRAPH LIKE THE ANGEL OF DEATH SKIPPING A DOOR MARKED IN SHEEP'S BLOOD. The nearly-departed go to the mortician for help, and he throws out the Yoda-ism that "Only new life can defeat death". Kimberly Corman later decides that this means that, if she dies for a time, and then is revived, then they can escape Death's design. But wait, in the first movie, doesn't Alex (Devon Sawa) die, and then get revived? I guess you could pull a Miracle Max and argue about the various degrees of deadness, but Alex stopped breathing, and one of the FBI guys had to breath and pump his heart for him, so how much different is that from drowning and getting zapped back by the electricity paddles? In any case, fellow nitpickers, I've got the answer for you. You see, by the time Kimberly Corman comes up with her brilliant plan, Clear Waters has already been charbroiled, so she's not around to tell them, "No, silly, that won't defeat Death. It'll just delay Death long enough for the requisite 'you think all the bad stuff is over and the world is sunshine and singing birds but someone's about to bite the big one just before the credits roll' ending."

SAME WITH THIS PARAGRAPH. SKIP IT, SKIP IT, SKIP IT, SKIP IT. Here's one, though, that I haven't been able to figure out. The barbecued kid at the end supposedly bites it because he was saved by one of the people who Kimberly Corman saved (namely Coke-Sniffing Guy). But if everything had gone according to Death's original plan, then it seems likely to me that the Barbecue Kid wouldn't have been in any danger in the first place. It's like, they put him in danger because they were alive, and then saved his life because they were alive, so it should all cancel out. I guess the explanation is that, in Death's original design, the kid would have died some other way, or run out into the street at the exact same time in front of the exact same vehicle, even if everyone had crashed and burned as they were meant to. But it still smells like a plot hole to me.

Overall, I found Final Destination 2 just as entertaining as the first. There will be the usual complaints about horror movies. Cheesy lines, bad acting, fuzzy logic, plot holes, etc. And some fans of the original will be turned off by Final Destination 2's utter lack of subtlety. But its strengths balance out its weaknesses. While the actors in the first movie had above-average (for a horror movie) charisma and acting-chops, the actors in the second (except for Michal Landes, who plays the cop) are much more typical cardboard disposables. But not to worry. What they lack in brains and heart, they make up for in guts -- the kind that splatter everywhere or spill out onto the ground.

If Final Destination was a popcorn movie, then Final Destination 2 is all-out trash cinema, but it's joyous, glorious trash that has more life to it than a lot of art cinema. So maybe I should dub it something much more tasty-sounding than trash: Carnage Candy.

RevSF Film/DVD Editor Jason Myers is still haunted by the tragic 1997 death of Randy "carnage candy" Meeks.

 
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