Mark Reviews Movies


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: David R. Ellis

Cast: A.J. Cook, Ali Larter, Michael Landes, Terrence "T.C." Carson, Keegan Connor Tracy, Jonathan Cherry, Lynda Boyd, James Kirk, David Paetkau, Sarah Carter, Tony Todd

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violent/gruesome accidents, language, drug content and some nudity)

Running Time: 1:40

Release Date: 1/31/03

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Review by Mark Dujsik

There’s something bugging me about Final Destination 2. The opening sequence is so good that I was excited at the prospect of a sequel that could potentially live up to the original. The original film was, for lack of a less quote-whorish phraseology, an adrenaline rush. The opening scene of the sequel has that same quality to it, but, oh, does the movie go downhill quickly from there. The original worked so well for a few reasons: the death scenes were inventive and surprising, the moments of terror were genuine, the suspense was real, and the characters had personalities and discussed a subject with which every horror movie character is confronted—albeit usually too quickly for them to give it a second thought. And then there was one more thing, something that lent the proceedings an unexpected charm: Death had a really twisted sense of humor. Walking out of the original, I thought, Hitchcock would have loved that. Walking out of this one, I thought, what happened? How a sequel can change things.

A year to the day after the tragic airplane explosion that initiated the events of the first film (you just know something bad is going to go down then), Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) and her friends are heading off on spring break. On the way, a horrible, catastrophic traffic pileup occurs, killing her and her friends along with many, many other people. No, it was just a vision, but she blocks traffic heading off onto the freeway anyway. The disaster takes place exactly how she had envisioned it, but she and a group of strangers are spared a terrifying death thanks to her actions (her friends, on the other hand…). Kimberly is convinced that things will play out eerily similarly to the events that transpired a year. Naturally, no one completely believes her. So, what does it take for people to understand the levity of the situation at hand? Why someone from the group dying in an elaborate, ironic way, of course. Nevertheless, Kimberly can’t come to an understanding of Death’s plan on her own, so she visits and enlists the aid of the only remaining survivor of the incidents of a year ago, Clear Rivers (Ali Larter).

Is it worth mentioning that the variation on the original’s gimmick stretches the willing suspension of disbelief? You see, Kimberly’s misunderstanding comes from the fact that the first person to die after avoiding the accident is the last person to die in her vision. As far as she knows, Death reclaims victims in the order they were meant to depart. Clear offers an obvious observation: Death’s list has been reversed. Eventually the movie goes into detail why this is happening, but it’s too convoluted to take to heart. Now this twist wouldn’t be such a metaphysical annoyance if not for the fact that Death seems to be lazy this time around. Instead of a series of complicated, interlocking events that lead up to a victim’s demise, as witnessed in the first movie, Death cuts corners this time around. Usually, it’s the characters’ own actions that set in motion the deaths here. From a guy's hand getting stuck in a garbage disposal because he dropped his new, expensive ring down the drain to a kid running up to a group of pigeons to scare them (if you heard someone yelling, “The pigeons!  The pigeons!” with such urgency, would your first reaction (even at fifteen) be to run toward them?) to a woman’s cigarette igniting a gas leak that causes an explosion that sends a barbed wire fence flying, Death pretty much takes a holiday.

If the setup is forced and idle, the execution is slightly worse for the wear. The first film garnered suspense from the possibility that anything could happen and that Death was an unrelenting force. This one focuses on the payoffs. The gore has been kicked up twenty or so notches, apparently eliminating the need for invention on the part of the filmmakers. There is little suspense as the cycle continues because we know what’s coming in general and, at times, specific terms. Near the end when the movie has a handful of victims left, Death does away with any pizzazz and just keeps the fatalities coming left and right. Then there’s one key misstep: the first movie worked because of Death’s humor; this one falters because it’s the filmmakers who are flippant about the subject. There are other things. There’s no gloom or shadow to be found; the movie is too bright, lessening any sense of dread. Everything about the system has been established by the first film (whose story is reiterated a few times too many), and as a result, there’s no discovery or exploration for these characters, none of whom have a distinguishing or worthwhile personality.

Despite its rather gaping flaws, Final Destination 2 does manage to elicit a few thrills now and then. The premise holds promise until it’s butchered halfway through, leaving absolutely no room for a sequel (take note producerswe’re on to you). And, to a much lesser extent, there’s something enjoyable about a movie that doesn’t recognize the irony of a character who is obsessively afraid of all potentially sharp or deadly objects but doesn’t think twice about paper-cuts from newspaper clippings.

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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