Final Destination uses its precognitive abilities to spawn a franchise devoid of suspense. Yes, another influential horror series that is ferociously mediocre and stupid beyond belief. The franchise filled with inventive death sequences, narrow survivability and teeny weeny clichés all started here with Wong, a man clearly hellbent in forcing audiences to be mildly cautious of everything, everyone and everywhere.
Except he forgot one crucial aspect. He had seemingly directed/written a horror, but where’s the suspense? Where’s the horror? And holy flailing live wire where’s the characterisation? A teenager cheats death after experiencing a premonition of a plane (which clearly wasn’t suitable for take off…) exploding. He and a multitude of students leave the plane before the catastrophic event takes place and now Death is curing his boredom by finding inventive ways to kill these fools.
For instance, a teenager strangling themselves with a shower and unable to stand up. Or a girl being slammed by the most silent speeding bus. Maybe a monitor exploding like a bomb and dispersing shards of glass into a woman’s neck. No wait, I got it! Decapitation by shrapnel! Anyway, despite how inventive and gloriously gory these death sequences were, whilst suspending your disbelief for the vast majority of the film’s runtime, masquerading plot conveniences as determinism is incredibly lazy writing.
Hang on! I know exactly what you’re thinking. “Uhhh the point of these films is that Death is controlling their outcomes”. And I get it. I’m fine with that. But you’re going to try and convince me that all the survivors happened to be at the same café as one of them meets their early demise, to which was all part of Death’s plan? Or Billy riding his bicycle at the exact moment a house explodes? No. Those are just conveniences that outline the amateurish writing capabilities of the screenplay writers.
Speaking of screenplay, nearly every line of dialogue is used to theorise about Death’s plan. These students aren’t having natural conversations about their lives or what they had for breakfast. They discuss death in so much detail, that one could mistake them for being morticians. Cheer up guys, please! The lack of characterisation is woeful, and in turn, makes us care less about who meets their demise or not. Honestly, didn’t give a toss who got impaled by a washing line. Wong had his mind purely set on “how” they were going to die, as opposed to “who”, and in turn deviated from the much required suspense that Final Destination craved.
Fortunately, the practical effects make up for the absent tension, particularly the introductory plane catastrophe, inducing plenty of gore being splattered on the screen. The acting was functional for a teen horror, although Sawa and Larter were standouts with their underdeveloped pairing, and the Goldberg effect on some of the deaths was fascinating to watch unravel. But then you see Death retreat the water that mysteriously followed Tod on the bathroom floor, and we’re back to nonsensical stupidity.
Final Destination is a film I appreciate, especially for its influence and staying power in the horror genre. Forever watchable and a great film to put on during a popcorn night. However, it’s irrefutably mediocre, with stupidity around every corner and morticians randomly delivering excessive exposition, so much so that Death has seemingly possessed everyone into thinking it’s actually decent.