The “Final Destination” franchise does something few horror films manage to do–it scares on the utmost personal, intimate level. It fails to offer us the possibility of escape from a murderous masked villain; to lend reprieve from a supernatural force by way of a mystical solution; to grant weapons with which to fight a deranged monster, or to provide sanctuary when attempting to survive an (un)natural disaster.
In the “Final Destination” universe there is no place to hide, no one to outrun, and no being to defeat. There exists no escape because Death itself is the unbeatable villain, unforgiving in its quest to welcome us into its shadowy depths.
The franchise began in 2000, when James Wong directed the first installment based on a screenplay written by screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick. Despite the film’s mixed reviews, it earned $10 million in its opening weekend and spawned four additional films that released between 2003 and 2011. David R. Ellis directed “Final Destination 2,” which generally received more positive ratings than its predecessor.
Released three years after the original, the events of “Final Destination 2” take place only one year later.
The first installment follows high school student Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) who, after boarding Volée Airlines Flight 180, has a vivid premonition of the plane exploding in mid-air, killing everyone on board. After warning those on board that the flight will be a deadly one, he is escorted off the plane along with a handful of his classmates. Minutes later, the plane takes off, and the group watches from the airport window as Flight 180 indeed explodes.
The rest of the film follows the aftermath of the explosion. As the students who were removed from the plane begin to die one-by-one in a series of gruesome accidents, Alex and Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), another Flight 180 survivor, seek answers by talking to their local funeral home mortician, who informs them that Alex has ruined Death’s plan by taking a group of students, who were meant to die, off the plane. As Alex and Clear begin to understand how to navigate Death’s design, the film follows their attempt at survival in an ultimately doomed game of cat and mouse.
“Final Destination 2” follows a similar storyline, beginning with a newscast detailing the anniversary of tragic Flight 180, as one year has gone by. This time around, college student Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) is driving to Florida with her friends for Spring Break when she also has an intense premonition of a massive car crash in which no one, including her, will survive.
Terrified, she uses her car to block a string of people from entering the highway where the crash will potentially happen. As Deputy Thomas Burke (Michael Landes) approaches Kimberly to question her hysterical behavior, the deadly car crash happens in front of their eyes.
In an effort to find answers, Kimberly visits Clear, now the veteran advice-giver who has been voluntarily living in a mental institution since the events of “Final Destination,” and later visits William the mortician. Together, Kimberly, Clear, and Deputy Thomas use the events of original to attempt to beat Death’s design and save the lives of those who survived the deadly crash. In a much faster-paced and intensified game, will “Final Destination 2” prove to have the fatal results that we see in the the original?
The gripping sequel offers much more substance than Final Destination when it comes to developing the franchises’s mythology. While Death is still an unseen but constantly looming threat, it is personified in the way that the characters learn to look for signs of its presence in attempts to stop tragic events before they happen.
William, so close to Death in his line of work, continues to act as Death’s representative, and relays more information about the invisible forces that guide the living and the dying. In a way that feels Butterfly Effect-esque (though that film had not yet debuted), the characters realize their connectedness not only to the events in the first film and to each other, but also to seemingly insignificant details in their pasts that prove to have astounding effects on the designs of their futures.
The “Final Destination” franchise explores our places in the universe, and tries to show us how little control we have over our potentially pre-determined fates. It provides the gruesome gore of a slasher film, the unnerving chase of a monster movie, and the pensiveness of a psychological thriller, proving to be an absolute staple in any horror fan’s collection.