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Final Destination 2
2003 - R - 100 Mins.
Director: David R. Ellis
Producer: Richard Brener, Toby Emmerich
Written By: J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress
Starring: Ali Larter, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes, David Paetkau, Jonathan Cherry
Review by: David Trier
   
It's certainly no surprise that the number "2" has found it's way to Final Destination. When you've got a good gimmick, why not milk it for all it's worth? That seems to be the trend anyway. But like most sequels (and nearly all horror sequels), the pull away from ingenuity and towards self-referential comedy is just too tempting.

When Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) has a vivid premonition of a horrible traffic accident, she promptly blocks a freeway onramp. In so doing, she saves the lives of several unaware horror stock characters. A brash lottery winner, a snobbish young business woman, a Dudley-do-right cop, a loving mother and her adolescent son, a drug addict and, of course, a pregnant latina and a well-dressed black guy. But she might have spared us all the time, since Kimberly's disruption of Death's plan puts them all in "grave" danger anyway. But wait... didn't a similar situation take place a few years ago? Maybe the source material's only survivor, Clear Waters (Ali Larter) can shed some light on the debacle.

In reviewing a film, particularly from one of the oppressed genres, I always try to consider what the film's goals were. Clearly, the main objective of this film was not safe sex awareness or civil war education. This is a popcorn movie, designed to remove an hour and a half from our otherwise benign existence, serving a similar yet even less interactive experience to video games. This in mind, Final Destination 2 is blissfully average. It methodically removes its victims with displays of charming special effects and excess gore, dropping all the appropriate and well-organized clues as to when you can get up and go to the bathroom and when you can't. Interestingly enough, each of the death sequences (or FX/cinematography exposé's) seem to shown in increasingly thoughtless order. The film's greatest achievement is a brilliantly shot and truly jaw-dropping traffic disaster at the start of the film. It's soon followed up by the film's second-most entertaining sequence, the gruesome death of its first victim. Physically unlikely deaths are generally brushed under the rug with often unrealistic yet visually stimulating sight gags.

The film doesn't score any points for dialogue, making some of the acting a little stilted. But the performances themselves don't contribute to the film's silliness. A.J. Cook is a more appealing heroine than one might expect. And all of the victim characters have a little something to offer each two-dimensional role. Jonathan Cherry's coke-sniffing character is admittedly pretty funny. Ali Larter's return is obligatory and acceptable, but her character is so bitter (albeit understandably), she quickly grows tiresome. Likewise, Michael Landes is easily forgettable as the cop/love interest because his character is so incompetent, you can't help but root for his death. Amongst other things, he has way more free time than any cop I've ever seen. Nothing is gained from Tony "Candyman" Todd's cameo as he essentially mumbles the same badly written psychobabble he spewed in the first film.

As in many popcorn horror flicks, the characters reflect many of our media-driven prejudices. For example, Terrence Carson's token black guy character is unrealistically stubborn and skeptical, as well as incapable of speaking without using the term "bullshit". Some of the plot developments are cute, but often difficult to understand until they've been explained for the third or fourth time (which they are). And at least one of the deaths seem to be more a result of Kimberly's actions than Death's plan. The major conflict's resolution is typically convoluted, as is the illogical and uninspiring romance between Kimberly and the cop. The film has it's obligatory "punchline" which arguably does more damage to its integrity than all of the other loopholes and inconsistencies. Instead, it simply pokes fun at the whole premise and turns Death into a big joke, completely removing the "fear element" it so carefully tried to develop.

The original Final Destination, although it too suffered from being entirely based on a gimmick, at the very least seemed to take itself seriously, making it far superior to any of the other Scream coat-tail hangers-on. But aside from relieving us from a cast made entirely of teenagers and a few well-executed camera stunts, this sequel is nothing more than typical.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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