Review Date: January 16, 2004
Released by: New Line
Release date: 9/26/2000
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Scream, as good as it is, had fueled a stagnant era of horror rip-offs. Horror movies were so busy trying to be hip and trendy with pop culture references and teen idol look-alikes, they seemed to forget the nature of the genre. Why would Final Destination be any different? The trailer did nothing for me, so I skipped the theatrical release altogether. I came very close to snubbing the DVD the week it was released, and then I began to hear a buzz. Friends and colleagues began to talk about this cool horror movie that they watched that actually didn't suck. These praises combined with an excellent price tag spurred me to take a chance on this movie which I had so carefully avoided. In 1998, Bride of Chucky coming out of left field was a pleasant surprise. The Rage: Carrie 2 was my guilty pleasure for 1999. Could Final Destination be my underdog for 2000?
Nothing is better than a field trip. The opportunity not only to miss a few hours of school, but to hang out with friends all without getting in trouble. Imagine the delight of being in a French class that has the chance to embrace the language and culture while spending time in Paris, France. Alex (Devon Sawa), while looking forward to the trip is a bit hesitant. With each moment leading up to boarding the plane, subtle words, phrases, and signs tell him that death may soon be knocking at his door. With a bit of peer pressure from friends Tod & George (Chad E. Donella & Brendan Fehr), Alex nervously enters the plane. After being seated, Alex has a vision. While most of his classmates priorities are choosing who to sit with, the plane begins to takeoff. First there is some 'turbulence', and then things get really bad. The oxygen masks drop just in time for the plane to begin falling apart around the students. Just as Alex meets his demise he awakens, sweaty and obviously disturbed. As he comes to, he gets an even bigger scare. The events that occurred in his terrifying dream begin to unfold down to the smallest detail.
In a panic, Alex tells everyone the plane is about to explode. Some get upset with his 'warning' while others actually listen. Alex is escorted off of the plane for his actions and a few others leave as well. Tod, Clear (Ali Larter), Carter (Kerr Smith), his girlfriend Terry (Amanda Detmer), and Bily (Seann William Scott) are left in the airport with their chaperone Ms. Lewton (Kristen Cloke). Upset that they have missed the trip, feelings change quickly when the plane explodes before their eyes. Emotions run high as each 'survivor' tries to find an explanation for what happened. All would be fine if the seven could just deal with their loss and move on, but what type of horror movie would that be? They have cheated death and that isn't practical in this genre. Slowly, death comes looking for each member of the group. The question is, can they figure out a way to dodge the Grim Reaper again?
Final Destination is my sleeper hit of 2000. It seemingly came out of nowhere to deliver an entertaining film that had a decent box office run, taking in just over $53 million. Jumping from the small screen, X Files veterans James Wong and Glen Morgan couldn't have had better timing. Horror movies needed a change of pace. The market was being flooded with Kevin Williamson rip-off scripts and M. Night Shyamalan's "bet you didn't see that coming" endings. Redundancy is common in film, but we all know there is more than one way to tell a story. Glen Morgan took an old tale about death and brought it back to life. The adversary is not any type of physical being, just a supernatural entity that makes just movement to let victims know they are not alone. On the surface the movie may seem like a typical slasher flick, but all misconceptions are thrown out quickly. There is no masked menace, no kitchen knife, or no chainsaw. Final Destination cuts out the 'middle man' and lets victims stare death in the face up close and personal.
Another thing the movie has going for it are the cast members. I am not Devon Sawa's biggest fan, but it is nice to see a 'teen' movie without twentysomething Freddie Prinze Jr., the W.B.'s hottest new boob tube attraction, or a flavor of the month recording artist. Sawa more than holds his own in the film, proving he can play characters who are not always high (SLC Punk!, Idle Hands) or throwing touchdowns with toilet paper in the local supermarket (Little Giants). Ali Larter was an excellent choice as the reserved Clear. She toned her looks down to give viewers a relatable character who is drawn to Alex's vision. After bursting into the movie scene with the best bikini ever (Varsity Blues), Ali has managed not to be typecast as a teenage vixen. She could have easily placed her acting skills on cruise control and played Terry, but she changed up her image and made an impact on the film. Even Seann William Scott (American Pie's Stifler for those who don't watch the credits roll) went against type, playing the dork who tags along with whoever will allow. He still manages to get some laughs, even in this low key role. Moves like this show that Final Destination is trying to take the horror genre in a new direction. They changed up the formula just enough to break away from cookie cutter horror flicks without arriving D.O.A.
Not commenting on the deaths in Final Destination would be an absolute disgrace. Each of the deaths are memorable in their own way and use long time horror fans experience of the genre against them. There are moments when viewers will cringe, expecting a horrific turn of events that never materializes. Other scenes just come out with full force shock. There is no tense music, no setup, just a death that spontaneously combusts onto the screen. Wong's shining moment in the film came when he killed of the second 'survivor'. The scene is morbidly humorous, prompting a wealth of emotions that range from pure shock to satisfaction. The movie creates beautiful tension by not pulling any punches. Final Destination plays by a different set of rules, leaving viewers a bit off balance. The film is far more graphic than a number of recent releases and we are not confined to the traditional stalker formula. Though it may not be as scary as other films I have seen, few can compare to the energy and fun Final Destination brings to the screen. While I had a blast watching Bride of Chucky, I don't think I have had this much fun in the genre since From Dusk Till Dawn.
Final Destination is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. Once again, New Line delivers a top of the line transfer with this Platinum Series release. The detail is immaculate, showcasing deep blacks and accurate flesh tones. The colors are energetic, providing life to backgrounds and settings.
Overall, the special effects are nice. There are quite a few CGI shots and they are rarely distracting to the film. Given the elaborate deaths, the uses of lighting and electricity, or even Alex's vision in the beginning, the chance for visible flaws are numerous. While a couple of shots may not have been presented in the best way, the overall purpose of the effects do succeed in progressing the film along well.
If only a DTS soundtrack were included. I am not complaining in anyway, as a crisp DTS transfer is about the only improvement that could be made here. Final Destination blends visuals with loud audio to produce scares and thrills for those who watch. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is the only way to go on a disc that also sports a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Before the movie even gets an image on the screen, the rear speakers are already alive. The movie provides a score and sound effects that roam freely in your sound field, inviting viewers to enjoy the ride. Dialogue is strong and the bass will have your neighbors begging for mercy.
My first audible extra was in the form of a crew commentary. Director James Wong, editor James Coblentz, writer/producer Glen Morgan, and writer Jeffery Reddick all sit down to discuss the ins and outs of the film. With the men each providing a different role for the film, we get information from all angles. Can you imagine Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the roles of Alex and Clear? Did you catch the homage to horror greats in the character's names? How about the use of numbers in the film? The track is informative and doesn't drag at all. I would imagine the group setting helped to stimulate conversation, giving listeners a deeper look into the movie.
Watching multiple commentaries can be difficult. When you have an actor commentary by Devon Sawa, Kerr Smith, Kristin Cloke, & Chad E. Donnella, things are a bit easier. They had a good time telling stories and poking fun at one another throughout the commentary. There was some behind the scenes information, but mostly just a group of colleagues having a good time. The commentary is enjoyable and while the information disclosed isn't quite as technical, it mirrors the fun side the film provides.
The third commentary was much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. The track doubles as an isolated score/commentary track as the film's composer Shirley Walker gives her views on the mood and style she was going for. While she starts off sounding a bit nervous, Shirley finds a groove and gives an angle that only a composer could regarding music. She certainly achieved a modern score with a classical touch, complimenting the ode to classic horror by character names. The track also allows us to hear some of the music that slips through the cracks. Sometimes an intense scene or aggressive sound effects cover up what is a great musical accompaniment.
There are only three deleted scenes that made it to the DVD. They are titled 'Alternate Love Scene', 'Pregnancy Test', and Alternate Ending'. They all revolve around a love connection between Alex and Clear. There is no commentary that tells why the scenes were left on the cutting room floor, but in the test screenings documentary we get an explanation as to why Alex and Clear's love never materialized.
The documentary The Perfect Soufflé covers the numerous test screenings for Final Destination and runs 13:21. It is basically New Line executives and some key crew members explaining why test screenings are important to marketing a film. We see the same deleted scenes again, but get valid reasons why they didn't make the final cut. Audience reactions to early screenings are shown. Some of their comments and suggestions even made it to the documentary. They range from odd to perverse. With audiences giving poor and thoughtless feedback like this, it should be no surprise why some terrible movies get released. At least the crew at New Line knew they had a gem and used the audience opinions sparingly.
I wasn't quite sure what to make of Premonitions (19:37) at first. It is a featurette/documentary about Pam Coranado, an intuitive investigator who uses her psychic abilities to assist police with murder and kidnapping cases. In the allotted time, we are given a backstory on Pam, some cases she has worked on, and a look at her personal life. While it does relate to the movie in a metaphysical sense, the short does not rely on Final Destination in any way to fill time or promote what Pam does. It is a great little piece that kind of catches you off guard by showing that visions like the one Alex had in the film may be more than just fiction.
There are a couple of games on the disc titled Death Clock and Psychic Test. Death Clock asks a series of questions regarding your age, health, and family history before calculating when you are going to die. I won't give you guys my exact date, but I will say it falls on Friday the 13th. Personally, I was hoping to die on Halloween since I like the series more, but I gotta go with what the clock says. The Psychic Test places five cards out, each with a different symbol (circle, square, star, wavy lines, and a cross) and the DVD chooses one at random. It is your job to 'see' which card the DVD has chosen and make your decision. The test is done 25 times, each with the cards in a different order and a random card selected for every test. At the end of the 25 tests, you are graded based on how many you were able to 'see'. The only thing I 'saw' was I had no psychic ability whatsoever. There are eight cast member and five crew member filmographies as well as the Final Destination theatrical trailer (2:20) which is in Dolby Digital 5.1 as well.
The DVD-ROM content includes the Script-to-Screen option that lets viewers watch the movie while reading along with the screenplay. There is also internet access to the film's website which has the games included on the DVD as well as other options like animated postcards. Of course, you will need a DVD-ROM drive as well as Windows 95 or higher to access these features.
Needless to say, my gamble paid off. The disc I took a chance on turned out to be one of my top purchases of the year. New Line upholds its reputation for quality, showcasing Final Destination in a fully loaded DVD. While casting and some plot points may distract some, the creative force behind the movie helps to push things along. A great presentation coupled with a wealth of extras make Final Destination an easy recommendation for those looking to enjoy a couple of hours in front of the boob tube. Here's looking forward to the sequel hitting DVD soon.
Movie - A
Image Quality - A
Sound - A
Supplements - B+
- Running time - 1 hour 38 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
- English Subtitles
- Filmmaker Commentary by James Wong, Glen Morgan, James Coblentz, & Jeffery Reddick
- Actor Commentary by Devon Sawa, Kerr Smith, Kristin Cloke, & Chad E. Donnella
- 5.1 Isolated Score & Commentary with Composer Shirley Walker
- Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending
- Two Original Documentaries: Test Screenings & Premonitions
- Theatrical Trailer
- DVD-ROM Content