"Final Destination" (2000) was a terrific surprise. It was a horror film based on thrills, with chills its second goal -- a very rare find in this genre. It also took the nation by surprise, and quickly racked up respectable box office and a legion of supporters (myself included). As with any low-budget hit, we now have to contend with a sequel, but "Final Destination 2" (IMDb listing) is an example of a studio misjudging exactly what made "Destination" work so well.
It's been a year since the survivors of flight 180 were systematically erased by an unknown force, leaving Clear Rivers (Ali Larter, "Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back") the only one standing. Upon leaving with her friends for spring break in Daytona, Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) has a vision of a massive highway accident. The premonition leaves her afraid to continue with the trip, and she blocks a freeway onramp to protect those she knows will be involved. When the accident soon occurs without the intended victims, Kimberly has cheated death, and restarts the cycle of the one-by-one killings that plagued the survivors of the first film's plan crash. Kimberly and the rest of the panicked group have only one hope for survival, and that's Clear, who's been locked in a mental institution hoping to keep herself away from death's grasp.
"Final Destination 2" brashly pronounces itself right away with the opening car accident. Carefully staged and increasingly mounting in anticipation, director David R. Ellis ("Homeward Bound 2") immediately showcases his ability to take control of this franchise from original director James Wong ("The One"), and escort it safely through what's expected of this sequel. It's a killer opening, and sets the picture off on the right foot for first-class mayhem.
However, Wong was a clever director, and screenwriters Glen Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick (along with Wong) wrote a unique screenplay that carefully built up its tricky premise in a way where you didn't see, or care to think about, plot holes. New Line Cinema clearly believes that the Rube Goldbergian-designed death set pieces are what the millions paid to see, and they force the minds behind "Destination 2" to go for more gore and less sense. While undeniably fun to watch, the enchantment wears thin after 45 minutes, and then the picture starts liberally hurdling gaps of logic in pursuit of its insatiable thirst for blood. These cavities in common sense add up quickly, and when the picture finally comes to a halt, the empty feeling lives on, quite the opposite of the first film. Though hardly a rush job (it's been three years since the original film), "Destination 2" feels like it was put together without much forethought, and designed to provide instant gratification to the masses. "Final Destination" was a blast of horror, but also a mournful, brooding film. "Destination 2" just wants the big reactions, without working all that hard for them.
If you're coming to this film just for the kills, you'll hardly be disappointed. The screenwriters here have come up with all sorts of intricate ways for people to buy the farm, including one character who has a plate glass window dropped squarely on him, smashing him into mush. Or another who's beheaded by a runaway elevator. My favorite snuff scene in the film involves a jagged pipe punched through the head rest of a truck, and the inevitable release of a driver's side airbag. Gruesome, but wildly inventive.
I also find it hard to fault a modern horror film that has no interest in loud soundtrack jolts to achieve scares. The two "Destination" film are concerned solely with unbearable anticipation and mounting dread, never the fake scares utilized far too much these days. Amen.
"Final Destination 2" isn't up to par with its original creation, and its empty calorie delights will only be fleetingly fun. But things could've been a lot worse, and are, in horror films these days. I'll gladly take these sloppy seconds any time over garbage like "Darkness Falls."
Filmfodder Grade: B-