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Final Destination
1999 - R - 95 Mins.
Director: James Wong
Producer: Craig Perry, Glen Morgan, Warren Zide
Starring: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Amanda Detmer
Review by: John Ulmer
   
What if Death had a plan for you, but by matter of intervention that plan was cut short? What if you and a handful of other people were selected to die on a certain date, only you didn't. What would happen? In short, the question is this: Is Death egocentric? Because if Death's plan was altered, well, he could just shrug like most of us when our plans go awry and turn away. But in "Final Destination," a film about a band of teenagers who never board a plane destined to explode in flight, it appears as though Death has a very large ego--one that doesn't like to be messed with. Why else would he chase the survivors down and try to kill them in a ritualistic pattern?

It's about time a clever premise intertwined with the teenage-horror genre. After years of being subjected to such "quality" material lining up the shelves at your local video store under the Horror Section, which might as well be named Horror for Teens, now you can stop worrying, because James Wong's "Final Destination" is not only smart, but tons of fun.

Alex (Devon Sawa), a seventeen-year-old highschooler, is going on a funded trip to Paris, France, with a horde of other teens. His flight, 180, is about to take off with him in it when he intercepts a startling vision. In it, the plane starts to take off and suddenly malfunctions, exploding in a haze of fire.

Alex's dream starts to follow course. Scared, he panics and exits the plane before take-off, along with a few other misled youths and a schoolteacher. They wait behind and agree to catch the next flight to Paris, when their original source of travel explodes in the sky, just as predicted by Alex.

Alex is shunned by many as a freak in the weeks to come. His best friend (who nearly boarded the plane along with Alex) commits suicide out of anger, frustration and sadness. But Alex realizes that perhaps he did not commit suicide after all--maybe it was Death coming back to follow through with his plan. Soon more die, and Alex comes up with a diagram of the plane's structure, and labels where everyone was sitting. He sees a pattern: The deaths are in sync with the position of where the victims would have been on the plane if it had taken off with them in it. So Alex tries to cheat Death again by fighting back--he comes close to fatality along with his other grave-destined friends (Seann William Scott, Ali Larter), but manages to stay alive by the hairs on his chin. (Well, actually, he doesn't have any hairs on his chin. But that's irrelevant, right?)

"Final Destination" has been done before in other ways, but this is one of the more memorable examples of the idea. It's a very smart teenage horror flick when you look at it in light of all the other profit-making Hollywood dreck. The beginning is beyond intriguing--the entire plane sequence and vision is handled with such great direction and timing by James Wong, it's easy to imagine how it could have been made by a lesser director without nearly the same gut-wrenching effect.

Wong, who co-wrote the script, uses some great camera techniques that help salvage this film. The acting isn't too bad either--Sean William Scott, who played Stifler in "American Pie" (1999), is especially funny in his role, much to the contrary with 2003's "Bulletproof Monk." Devon Sawa started his career with "Night of the Twisters" and hasn't been in too many memorable films since, including "Wild America" and "Slackers," but this ranks as one of his better movies and roles.

"Final Destination" is especially good in its first fifteen minutes, but after the plane segment, however, the film slowly but surely falls in a downward spiral. It becomes tiresome and even quite ridiculous as it draws to a close. However, the first half of "Final Destination" is your destination for fun.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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