I'm not a horror buff. In fact, I don't care much about horror films in the least. That's why you won't see me doing too many of these Retro Cinema posts during our month-long Halloween celebration. I also don't own many DVDs. I just don't buy them. Ever. But I own Final Destination. Why? Well, the reason I own the DVD is a long story – I didn't run out and buy it because I love it – but I have held onto it, because I do have a real soft spot for the movie and its sequels (such simple titles: Final Destination 2 and Final Destination 3).
Much of my, let's call it tolerance, of Final Destination has to do with my fascination with Rube Goldebergian chain reactions. Other horror films may have their foreshadowing and suspense, but many of the deaths in Final Destination consist of an intricate path of destruction. For example, one woman is killed by her carelessness to pour freezer-kept vodka into a very hot mug. As expected, the mug cracks, the vodka spills onto the floor, making it slippery, some of the liquid falls into a computer monitor, which blows up in her face, etc. By the end of the scene, the woman is lying on the floor of a kitchen aflame, she has kitchen knives sticking into all parts of her body and certainly there's no other explanation for her demise than it being an elaborate, freak accident.
And that's the other thing I appreciate about Final Destination. There's no real antagonist, no slasher, alien or supernatural being. The premise here is that a small group of teens, plus their French teacher, have escaped their fated end via plane explosion thanks to one kid's premonition. Now they will all succumb to seemingly accidental, albeit coincidental, deaths one by one, in the order they would have died in the plane. As somebody who is already somewhat of a hypochondriac and an acute multi-phobe, who is also fairly clumsy and accident-prone, the Final Destination movies freak me out really bad. Every time I watch one of them, I feel the way Devon Sawa does near the end of the movie, when he's wearing a protective costume and has all the nails and sharp objects covered. Immediately after I saw Final Destination 2, in which the airplane disaster is replaced by a highway pile-up, I had to drive from Providence to Bridgeport in the worst rainstorm I've ever driven through. It was scarier than any nightmare I've had following a normal horror movie.
Sure, there are a lot of problems with Final Destination. Actually all three of the movies have their own respective flaws. The first one makes one serious mistake early on by implying that there is actually a supernatural force to the accidents. At the end of the first accidental death, which is caused initially by a leaky toilet pipe, the water magically recedes and returns to the pipe in order for the death to seem more suicidal, less accidental. It's one of the most frustrating movie moments of all time, for me at least. Another problem with the first film is that one of its best deaths was apparently recycled from an earlier movie, and then was later recycled again for comedic purpose. I'm talking about a death involving a girl getting hit by a bus. It was one of the most surprising and shocking incidents I'd ever seen – until I saw the same thing had been done with a truck in Bride of Chucky, which came out two years earlier. When it was again done, humorously, in Mean Girls, it kinda lost its edge.
The second movie has a really confusing ending, which I'm pretty sure doesn't make sense, but it does feature some of the most creative kills ever witnessed in a horror film – the part with the jack-hammer and the stuck car door and the pipe through the head is amazing. And the pile-up in the beginning is a perfectly executed stunt sequence. The third movie also has some entertaining deaths – if you're into that kind of entertainment – to the point that they are actually funny. But it ultimately has no place in the narrative of the trilogy and its first stunt, which replaces the airplane and the pile-up with a badly shot roller-coaster accident – is truly embarrassing to watch.
Because I'm more afraid of the real world, in which accidents are the leading cause of death for people under 45, I have to say that no movie scares me more than Final Destination. It doesn't creep me out at all while I'm watching it, but afterward I think about death for days, and so for long-term fear, this is it. Just writing about it has given me the willies, and I'm currently looking around the room for potential killers (let's see: my water glass; the fan; all the shoes and books and crap on the floor I could trip on ... ).