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Final Destination 2
Review written by: Alex Sandell

I have to admit that I really had a good time with the original Final Destination film.  The movie was written and directed by two veterans of TV's The X-Files, along with a newcomer, and an avid fan of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Jeffrey Reddick.  It wasn't surprising, then, that the film came off as a cross between a quality Nightmare film and a decent episode of The X-Files

Final Destination had a very foreboding feel to it, and succeeded splendidly in really making death seem scary.  Making death seem scary may sound like the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, but if you take a look at about 95% of the horror movies ever made (and trust me, I've already spent hundreds of hours doing the job for you), you'll see that it's obviously not as easy as it looks.  Sadly, the two X-Files dudes went on to greener pastures after helping to make Final Destination the dandy little romp in the heated horror hay that it was, and the Elm Street guy got lazy and only stuck around as an executive producer. 

For this second installment, we aren't given diehard fans of 80's slasher flicks, or talented TV guys who like spooky stories, but rather director David R. Ellis, who previously directed the very "un-horror" film, Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco and two screenwriters (J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress) who are making their big-screen debut with the second chapter in this fledgling franchise.  I suppose one should expect a little offbeat silliness from a sequel to a film that was titled, Final Destination, but I'm not sure if I like the direction this new creative trio has the series headed in.

While failing to outdo the plane crash introduction in the original film, the folks behind Final Destination 2 still conjure up quite a slam-bang beginning to their film, both literally and figuratively.  Instead of a plane crash, we get a huge car pile-up on a busy highway.  The massive car crash happens to occur on the one-year anniversary of the plane crash in the first film.  There's absolutely no reason relevant to the plot for it to happen on the one-year anniversary, but I guess the screenwriters just thought that it sounded good. 

Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) has visions of the wreck while waiting on an on-ramp, and immediately proceeds to block the entrance to the highway in advance of the actual incident, saving plenty of lives in the process.  Of course this pisses off death, who's pretty damn anal when it comes to people skipping over their final destination, and he, once again, sets out to make things right by killing each of the survivors in assorted revolting ways, right after they act alongside a couple of well placed Apple computers, or cases of Corona beer (this film has more advertisements in it than a two-hour block of MTV). 

Kimberly decides to visit the lone survivor from the first Final Destination film, Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), who has safely committed herself to a padded quiet room in a nuthouse, where death, who seems to forget about convenient killing methods such as "natural causes," can't touch her.  Clear is shocked to find out that death is killing the survivors in the opposite order that they were intended to die in during the pile-up.  She uses a USA Today product placement to explain to Kimberly that, one year earlier, death killed everyone off in the order that they were intended to die.  This little spin on yesteryear's story inspires Clear to check herself out of the insane ward to fight to the "death." 

From this point on, a rather passable plot plays out, taking periodic breaks to feature elongated death scenes that make this the bloodiest R-rated horror film to be released over the past 10 years (yay, MPAA!  Now, keep it up!).  The film never takes itself very seriously, which is both a blessing and a curse.  Why sequels to successful scary movies always turn out to be comedies is beyond me, but in this instance the humor does actually work.  The only "accidental" humor in the film comes when someone in a gigantic SUV condescendingly yells, "ever heard of the ozone layer, asshole?!?" 

Other than the SUV irony (surely spawned by the folks at Ford, who place their products prominently), the people behind the camera were in on the joke, and having a blast coming up with comedic killings of a complex nature similar to the "flesh wound" scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  The killings aren't exactly slapstick, but they're surprisingly close, and some of them turn out to be fiendishly funny. 

In front of the camera, the cast mostly plays it straight, with exception to Tony Todd, who returns as the Mortician from the first film.  Todd was the title character in the eerie film, Candyman and both of its god-awful sequels.  He's a horror fan's favorite, and it's the little things such as adding him to this sequel, or giving the title character in the film the last name of "Corman" (Roger Corman is the creator of numerous cheesy monster movie favorites) that make this a fun film for fans of terror flicks. 

Although Todd appears to be the only person who knows that he's acting in a comedy, the rest of the members of the cast of Final Destination 2 are definitely above average for a schlocky gore-fest.  Ali Larter impressed me with her stronger, less frightened Clear Rivers.  The whole Linda Hamilton/Terminator thing works for her, and for the movie.  While Larter drives the film with her fine performance, the other members of the cast are more than willing to go along for the ride.  All things considered, this is probably the best acting ensemble to hit a teen-scream flick since, well, the original Scream

It's unfortunate the screenwriters didn't give this talented cast a few more frightening moments to perform in.  Final Destination 2 is simply too light on the scares.  As a matter of fact, after the sadistically brutal and sufficiently pulse-pounding intro., there isn't a moment to be found in the movie that's actually scary, or even intended to be scary.  The last 80 or 90 minutes (out of 100, if you count credits) of Final Destination 2 is left with only its dark, macabre comedy to make it memorable. 

What it boils down to is this:  if you're up for a good laugh, and think ornately staged scenes of people's lives coming to an R-rated Looney Tunes' type end would make for grand comedy, this film is definitely worth checking out.  If you want to watch the most amazing pile-up ever put on film, with a level of carnage that is dizzying, effects that are fast and furious, and enough of everything to make the sequence a devilish delight nasty enough to go down as one of the bright spots in the history of horror film, you may want to take a look at this movie.  If you attend horror movies for no reason other than to be scared, you might want to pass this one by and head for another Destination ... the one sitting on the shelf in your local video store. 

On a scale of 1-10?

6

Wanna watch me tear a "terror" flick in two?  Check out the Juicy review for, Darkness Falls

Don't miss the wild review for, Chicago!  You might also want to read my review of Narc or check out my review of Adaptation, or head on over to my critique of Catch me if you Can, or, if you're in the mood, read The Juicy Cerebellum's review of About Schmidt, or take a look at the review for Gangs of New York! 

Be back for Juicy reviews of, DAREDEVIL, HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, THE DOUBLE-D AVENGER and THE QUIET AMERICAN, all coming up within the next week!

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Text (Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].

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