Beyond the Slimy Wall: Final Destination 2
By Stephanie Star Smith
October 10, 2005
We here at BOP are an eclectic group, and our tastes in movies run from the serious cinephiles to the foreign-film aficionados to niche film lovers. Thus was born the idea for this weekly column, devoted to horror films of all shapes and sizes, but concentrating on those B- and C-grade films that mainstream reviewers disdain, but are the bread-and-butter of every spook movie lover's viewing. So come with me as we venture beyond the slimy wall, uncovering the treasures - and burying the time-wasting bombs - that await those who dare to love the scare.
Final Destination 2
It never ceases to amaze me how variable the quality of sequels - and prequels - is. Sometimes you sit back and wonder why anyone thought making a sequel would be a good idea, and other times you're gobsmacked by how much better the sequel is than the original film. And then there are the sequels where you never saw the original because it sounded kinda lame, but it's a slow week so you decide to catch the follow-up, and you end up pleasantly surprised by how damned much fun it is.
It's this latter category where I place Final Destination 2. I skipped the original film because it seemed too much like many another horror film released near the end of the 20th century, what I think of as the Pretty Young Things in Jeopardy flick. You know, movies that featured stars from series on The WB - or sometimes people who just looked like they were on The WB - that seemed to exist for the sole purpose of having nubile teens and 20-somethings run around dressed as scantily as possible in oh-so-fashionable clothes, making out and getting themselves killed. Ho-hum.
But I do admit to being slightly intrigued by the premise of the first Final Destination, which sounded just a tiny cut above the rest of that soporific pack. The idea of Death not being any too thrilled to have been cheated and taking steps to make sure those that escaped their fated appointment met their Maker in gruesome ways was a bit of a novel take on the slasher flick, and had it presented itself on one of my premium channels I'd likely have done the same thing I did with the sequel: TiVo it until either (A) there wasn't much else on to watch; or (B) TiVo was getting full and it was jettisoned to make room for more important fare. As it happened, however, I never saw listings for the first film until it started showing up on USA, and I certainly wasn't going to watch it cut for S&P and commercials.
And frankly I'd likely still not be all that interested in seeing the original if the sequel hadn't turned out to be so much fun (although I have the sneaking suspicion that Final Destination the First isn't nearly as much of a hoot as its offspring). Because you've gotta love a movie that spectacularly kills off a score of people in the first 15 minutes, then pulls one of those whiplash fake-outs where you discover the impressive stunt sequence hasn't happened yet. Because just like the original, Final Destination 2 deals with a group of people who were slated to die on a specific day in a predetermined manner, only they avoided their fates, thanks to a premonition visited upon one of their number.
Now, one of the things that makes Final Destination 2 more interesting than Original Recipe Final Destination is the variety to be found in the group of people whom the Grim Reaper is stalking. For in FD2, it's not a group of friends who are saved by one's clairvoyance, but a group of strangers who are saved quite by chance when the person with the premonition manages to inadvertently prevent them from meeting their fates. Once their number starts to meet bizarre and exceptionally grizzly deaths, however, it doesn't take long for the survivors to band together to try and protect one another and to attempt to find a way to evade Death's inexorable grip.
The fun in Final Destination 2 comes on two levels. First, it's nice to see a horror film where the characters don't act like people who've never seen a horror film before in their entire lives. Even in the wake of the Scream franchise, most horror films are still inhabited by characters who act as if they've never seen or even heard of a spook movie and so they continue to do absolutely every idiotic thing they shouldn't, the better to get themselves killed good and proper. So it's nice that in FD2, the characters acknowledge that strange things are happening and act accordingly. The characters are also cognizant of the events in the first film and how similar the situations are, and they use this knowledge to try and understand the present circumstances and save themselves. Having characters that are trying not to fall into genre traps yet are still being slain is a nice change of pace.
The other cool thing about Final Destination 2 is the deaths themselves. I've often mentioned in this column that slasher films tend to be boring because there are only so many ways you can kill someone, and after a while, all the flicks start to look the same. But in FD2, the scripters come up with some unique ways of dispatching their victims, scenarios that also happen to provide the opportunity for some smashing special F/X. The movie even puts a nice twist on the obligatory fake ending, providing an opening for a sequel yet still ending with a most satisfying bang.
Final Destination 2 moves at a brisk pace, getting into the meat of the story fairly quickly and then keeping up the breakneck speed to the conclusion of its 90 minute running time. The cast is capable, and the production values, particularly the F/X employed in the methods of slaughter, are above-average. Everything blends smoothly together to provide a fun and breezy popcorn film that will entertain without testing your suspension of disbelief nor stretching credulity too far.
I see by the shadows falling from my bust of Pallas that our time is up. Until next time, then, when we will once again venture Beyond the Slimy Wall.