Final Destination 2 (2003)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2009-08-16 14:30
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Written by: J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress, and Jeffrey Reddick
Starring: Ali Larter, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes, and Tony Todd


Reviewed by: Brett G.








"You can't cheat Death. There are no escapes."


Some films leave such an impression that one can remember the exact circumstances of viewing it for the first time. In the case of Final Destination 2, I can actually remember seeing the trailer for the first time. Filled to the brim with all sorts of carnage (vehicular and otherwise), the film looked to be one heck of a thrill ride. I had somehow missed out on the original Final Destination in theaters, but you can bet I was on board opening night for a second ride with death himself as he doled out grizzly ends to a new throng of victims.

It's been a year to the day since the ill-fated Flight 180 made its final destination. Kimberly and her friends are headed down to Daytona for spring break. Along the way, Kimberly has a vision similar to Alex Browning's, where she envisions everyone dying in a horrific pile-up. Once she comes to, she blocks the exit ramp and warns everyone about their impending doom (much to their consternation). Of course, a huge multi-vehicle collision occurs, sparing the would-be victims. However, before anyone can count their lucky stars, the survivors start dying in strange "accidents," leaving Kimberly to decipher death's design.

Sequels are often associated with disappointment, as many often only manage to be pale imitations of their predecessors. The second Final Destination is anything but, as it's bigger, slicker, and altogether more fun than the original. That said, it's also quite different from the first film in that it generally feels like it tries to entertain more so than scare the audience. The subject matter is still pretty grim stuff, but the film tries to have a bit more fun with the concept, meaning the deaths are a bit more over the top than the first film, which wasn't exactly a gore-fest. Furthermore, the film is injected with a sense of dark humor, a turn which most horror fans rail against; however, it works here, as the film is full of verbal and situational ironies (like a school bus full of football players chanting "pile-up" before the major crash) that are more macabre than they are laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Of course, the main attraction here is very much the gore, and it all starts with the opening traffic accident, which is just full of carnage, and it remains the best of the series' accident center-pieces. Ellis's direction here is tight, gripping, and very visceral; though it's very stylish, it still feels very natural. It even earned the praise of Quentin Tarantino, who called it "a magnificent car action piece." Beyond this, the other kills generally resemble the original in that they either fall under the category of happening either out of the blue or after a long, elaborate setup. The latter scenarios especially feel more expanded, as one sequence presents a multitude of ways for the victim to die, but the final blow is rather unpredictable (unless you pay close attention to the clues in the background). There's a bigger focus on the splatter itself, as people are crushed, impaled, severed, and decapitated with copious amounts of grue that outdoes the original, as any good body count sequel should strive to do. The film even throws in some gratuitous nudity from Odessa Munroe in what would end up being the first of her two breast-laden cameos in 2003.

One might expect that this newfound emphasis on gore might come at the expense of the characters, but I don't find the group here to be any worse than the group in the original. Unlike that film, the group here isn't mainly composed of teens, which gives us a more diverse sample of people. All of them are solidly acted, though none of the characters are written far beyond the usual cliches. The good news is that they never degenerate into mere caricatures that only serve the purpose of dying horrible deaths, and you genuinely feel sorry for some of them at times. There's no real quiet, character moments like in the first one, but they all still feel real enough so that the film isn't just an exercise in splatter. Ali Larter is again the bright spot, as she returns as Clear Rivers, the lone survivor from the events in the first film. A.J. Cook is serviceable alongside Michael Landes in the lead roles, and Tony Todd returns for another cameo as Bludworth, the mysterious mortician whose purpose has still yet to be revealed in the franchise.

Overall, the film looks like more of the same on paper; however, the execution separates this one from its predecessor, right down to the film's look, which is generally brighter and more colorful. The story itself also is a bit stronger, if only because the writers seemed committed to finding a way to tell a more complete story with a more focused conclusion. Also, the writers really found a clever way to connect the film and its characters to the events in the first film so that there's a true sense of continuity, which is always welcome. Plus, the film seems a bit more committed to being a non-stop, fast paced thrill-ride, as the death sequences come early and often. The first sequel in this series still remains my favorite in the franchise so far, and, looking back, it would seem that 2003 might be one of the most unsung years in horror ever, as fans were treated to this, Freddy vs. Jason, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre redux, and even the somewhat underrated Willard remake.

It also seems almost appropriate that all of these films were released by New Line Cinema in what could be perceived as a bit of a swan song for the company, as after 2003, the company seemingly forgot that horror brought them to the dance in the first place. Opting to focus on big budget blockbusters in the wake of their success with Lord of the Rings, New Line didn't manage to have many more hits at the box office (two horror outings--Final Destination 3 and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning--are notable exceptions). If anything, the home video department of New Line was always solid, and their Infinifilm release of Final Destination 2 is another solid entry. The disc features both widescreen and full-screen transfers that are crisp and clean along with both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES soundtracks. The latter is a true show stealer, particularly during the vehicular carnage, as the sound of logs hitting the road and cars piling up will have your floor thumping. Bonus features include a commentary with director Ellis, producer Craig Perry and the screenwriters, deleted and alternate scenes, a "Bringing Death to Life" featurette, and three "Beyond the Movie" features that play as you watch the film: the terror gauge, cheating death, and a fact track. This remains the only release the film has received, and it's been bundled up a few times with the other films in the series. A good package for one of the best popcorn horror films this decade has to offer. Buy it!



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