FINAL DESTINATION - Blu-ray review

...glib, well produced, and reasonably well acted, adding up to slick pop drivel.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

The title "Final Destination" was a misnomer. There was nothing "final" about this release because two sequels followed it, and as of this writing there's a "Final Destination 4" set to open. Maybe they should have called the series "Indefinite Destination" or "Open-Ended Destination." These things look like they're going on forever.

Now, here's the thing: Despite my being familiar with the film's name, I had never actually watched it, and nobody had ever given me a clue it was a comedy. While it's not a very good comedy, it's still got more outright laughs in it than most so-called "comedies" I've watched. Sure, it's grim, black humor, but that doesn't mean that some of this film isn't pretty funny. Maybe it's no coincidence that the first "Scary Movie" parody appeared the same year, 2000; you can certainly see where the "Scary Movie" franchise got many of its ideas.

Not that the filmmakers of "Final Destination" probably intended their film as a straightforward comedy; that's just the way it turned out, especially after the filmmakers saw test audiences laughing out loud. Put it this way: Can you really take a film seriously with characters in it named Hitchcock, Chaney, Browning, Lewton, and Schreck (all famous old horror-movie directors and stars) and a mortician named Bludworth (played by the Candyman himself, Tony Todd)?

Devon Sawa stars as a seventeen-year-old high school student, Alex Browning, about to go to Paris on a field trip with one of his classes. But once aboard the plane, he has a vision, a premonition, of the plane blowing up. He flips out, leaves the plane, and takes six other people with him (numbers, like seven and thirteen are big in this film). Then the plane takes off and blows up.

Besides Alex, the six survivors are Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), a sensitive type (you can tell by her name) who empathizes with Alex, feels what he feels; Carter Horton (Kerr Smith), a creep who wants to beat up Alex every time he sees him and somehow blames him for the plane blowing up (to be fair, most everyone blames Alex, as though his premonition caused the disaster); Terry Chaney (Amanda Detmer), Carter's girlfriend; Tod Waggoner (Chad E. Donnella), one of Alex's friends; Billy Hitchcock (Sean William Scott--I told you this was a comedy), another of Alex's friends; and Valerie Lewton (Kristen Cloke), a teacher.

At first, the survivors either blame Alex for the plane blowing up, as I say, or thank him for saving their lives. Until they start dying one by one in unexpectedly bizarre ways. Alex figures it's fate. They were all meant to die in the plane explosion, and now fate is taking them out one at a time. But if they could cheat death once before, why not again?

The humor comes largely in the manner of the victim's deaths. The deaths are so peculiar, so convoluted, so far-fetched, so totally off-the-wall, they're far more amusing than they are shocking. I particularly liked a death by computer and a girl being chased by an electrical wire.

"Final Destination" is glib, well produced, and reasonably well acted, adding up to slick pop drivel. James Wong ("The One," "Dragonball Evolution") directed from a story idea originally planned for "The X Files." It might have been better had it stayed on TV. The possibility of the movie making any meaningful comments about free will vs. predestination pass it by. Fair enough: No one expects horror movies to be philosophical. Still, when the opportunity arises....

Alex tries to prevent the deaths of his friends, but as he does so, he only makes himself look more like the perpetrator of the killings. The movie gets pretty silly and soon loses its initial appeal in an avalanche of nonsensical action. I never did figure out why the kids sneaked into a mortuary and whether the undertaker was supposed to represent Mr. Death. I guess it didn't matter.

Using a single-layer BD25 and a VC-1 encode, the New Line video engineers produce a bland but marginally acceptable transfer. The movie's original aspect ratio, 1.85:1, fills up a 1.78:1 widescreen television with colors that are bright, clear, and clean. Definition is only average, though, and most small detailing is smoothed over. Facial close-ups seldom actually look like high definition. This smoothing over of details would certainly flatter older actors because it hides any lines or wrinkles, but almost everyone in this film is young, so it doesn't help them.

The audio choices are Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, with regular Dolby Digital the default. Again, I watched about twenty minutes of the movie before remembering to switch to TrueHD, an annoyance I'm sure more people than just I must suffer. Anyway, the sonics are quite dynamic in both formats, with the TrueHD sounding fuller and firmer throughout. A powerful bass combines with widespread surround activity and a strong impact to yield more-than-satisfactory results not only in the explosions but in the moments of lightning and thunder as well.

In terms of quantity, there's a decent assortment of extras on the disc, all of them in standard definition. In terms of quality, there's nothing here we haven't seen before. To begin, there are a pair of audio commentaries, the first by writer-director James Wong, writer-producer Glen Morgan, editor James Coblentz, and writer Jeffrey Reddick and the second by stars Devon Sawa, Kerr Smith Kristin Cloke, and Chad E. Donella. Take your choice. Next, there's an isolated musical score with commentary by composer Shirley Walker. After that are two featurettes (listed as "documentaries" on the keep case). There's "The Perfect Soufflé: Testing Final Destination" (listed as "The Perfect Soulmate" on the keep case), about thirteen minutes on testing the film with preview audiences; and there's "Premonitions," about twenty minutes with Pam Coronado, an "intuitive" (or psychic) investigator. Following those items are three deleted scenes including an alternate ending totaling about eight minutes.

The bonuses conclude with nineteen scene selections; a widescreen theatrical trailer; English as the only spoken language; Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired. (The keep case lists the availability of German for a spoken language and subtitles, but they're not on the disc. Lesson: Never trust keep-case listings.)

Parting Shots:
For horror-movie fans who don't mind their thrills mixed with belly laughs, "Final Destination" can be a fairly entertaining film. Only the fact that it doesn't actually provide enough thrills or enough laughs prevents me from giving it a higher Film Value. It's those long stretches of tedium in between the thrills and the laughs that keep it out of the big-league horror-comedy ballpark. Put it another way: "Scream" did it better.


Film Value