Flight 180, a packed passenger plane, explodes minutes after take-off from JFK killing everyone on board. Everyone accept a small group of passengers who find themselves ejected from the plane after one claims to have had a premonition of the impending disaster.
Now, those lucky few are dying in mysterious circumstances, is it just an accident or is death trying to catch up with them?
Final Destination is an amazing title (it was originally Flight 180) and concept for a horror film. If it sounds like a pitch for an episode of The X-Files, that’s because that is exactly what it started out as.
This unproduced episode was picked up by New Line Cinema, the house that Freddy built, and soon a new horror franchise was born. Talking of The X-Files, the film was written by Mulder and Scully alumnus, James Wong and Glen Morgan, and is also the big screen directorial debut of Wong. He’s no stranger to the odd though having helmed numerous episodes of both The X-Files and its darker sibling, Millennium.
Final Destination flies in the slipstream of the smart and knowing writing of Scream, its deaths however lend more of a debt of gratitude to The Omen films, was it just a nasty accident or something more?
Death is the ultimate villain; it can strike anywhere and can use anything and everything at its disposal. It is also unstoppable so no matter how far you run it will eventually catch up with you. There’s no challenging it to a game of Twister or Battleships to get out of this one.
In horror film terms you also don’t get much more perfect than Death, none of that bogeyman returning due to some oversight. It’s relentless, something which the likes of It Follows cleverly taps into.
The deaths, all inventive, range from the horrendous slip and strangle in the shower (who hasn’t nearly slipped to their death when in the shower in the house on their own) to the frankly Itchy and Scratchy-like death of the teacher in her house featuring a block of knives, kettle, cracked vodka glass and dodgy computer.
That initial plane premonition really grips you from the off and has to be in the running for the most jaw-dropping plane disaster sequences ever realised on film that makes Alive look like a flight in the park. I don’t think I blinked during that scene.
And the cleverness doesn’t stop with the fiery end to the vision, once the group are arguing in the airport we see the plane explode in the distance with the sound wave and smashing glass hitting them seconds later.
And the devil really is in the detail in this film, from the sprinkling of portents of doom that range from John Denver playing in the airport toilet, he died in a plane crash, to a baggage cart that reads 666 to name but two.
The biggest shout out death wise must go to the bus hit though, brilliant, because although you expect it, it hits you with such speed and force that your jump is coiled tighter than ever. A death so audience rousing that the filmmakers had to add in a few extra moments of tablets dissolving in the next scene so that they could compose themselves.
And the names of all those striving to divert death are all nods to famous horror movie directors and actors, Browning (as in Todd, Director of Dracula), Hitchcock (as in Alfred, Director of Psycho), Chaney (as in Lon, star of The Phantom of The Opera) and Murnau (as in F.W., Director of Nosferatu).
Tony Todd (Candyman himself) has a nice but brief turn as a mortician, the suitably named Bludworth, he essentially embodies the character of death and tells the teens the rules of death. I’ll see you soon, he proclaims at the end of the scene and indeed he does appear in the parts 2, 3 and 5. In part 3 he is the ironically the voice of the devil, on a theme park ride.
The deaths may all seem implausible, but you only have to flick through the strange deaths pages of the Fortean Times to see that sometimes real life deaths are often stranger than fiction.
In echoes of The Omen’s original marketing campaign – if something bad happened to you today, perhaps it was The Omen. I now get that Final Destination effect whenever I’m behind a tractor with bales of hay, a van with lots of scaffolding poles (as happened directly after watching Final Destination 2).
My wife was even less amused when we were about to catch our flight back home from JFK and I noticed a class of high school students travelling on the same flight. It’s just like Final Destination I proclaimed. Death didn’t follow me but a death stare certainly did.
We haven’t seen a new Final Destination for a few years, franchise wise it was a dream as it theory could go on as long as there were inventive deaths and opening scenes of disaster. But don’t be fooled into thinking Death has gone, it’s merely dormant, biding its time.