Saturday, October 15, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 14: Final Destination 2

Death, as most people know, awaits us all (with nasty big pointy teeth) and on a long enough time line everyone's likelihood of survival drops to zero. This does not mean that we should just accept our inevitable fate, oh no, our very nature forces us to put off the end for as long as we can. Death is pretty scary. But like most things that frighten us we can diminish the fear of dying with a good old laugh, preferably at someone else's expense, and what could be funnier then a bunch of people straight from Hollywood's central casting department terrified out of their wits by the quickening approach of death, trying to put off their sticky ends?

One year after the events in Final Destination, in which Flight 180 exploded on take off killing all its passengers except those associated with a young man who had a powerful vision of the aircraft's destruction and got off the plane, Final Destination 2 (2003) introduces young Kimberly and her friends heading off for a road trip and some good times. As they drive along, a series of unusual hints offered up by songs on the radio and the behaviour of other motorists on the highway indicate that some form of doom may be impending. Sure enough, a truck hauling large tree trunks looses its load that leads to a massive pile-up killing loads of people in a variety of painful and gory ways, including the unlucky Kimberly...

...who then snaps out of the vision she was experiencing and finds herself still behind the wheel of her car with her friends and all still very much alive. Deciding that her vision is too much to ignore, Kimberly blocks the road and prevents anyone from getting onto the highway just as the massive pile-up gets underway, thus saving a whole bunch of people who would otherwise have been splattered all over the place. Except her annoying friends that is, they get killed when Kimberly steps out of the car before it gets sideswiped by a big truck.

Now faced with the realisation that she's going through the same issues as those who'd escaped Flight 180 the year before, Kimberly and those who'd survived the pile-up but weren't supposed to struggle to deal with the fact that death is stalking them. Looking to get some help, Kimberly goes to see Clear Rivers, now the only remaining survivor of Flight 180 (as the other dude Alex was killed by a falling brick sometime between the end of the first film and the start of this one... a falling brick! Honestly). Clear has checked herself into an asylum and is living in a nice safe padded room, totally isolated from the world and its potential dangers, convinced that death hasn't given up on her.

Kimberly manages to convince Clear to help her and the others and they set about figuring out how to wriggle free of death's plans. Looking for further clarification on the whole thing, they go to visit the mortician who told Alex and Clear all about death in the first movie. The mortician (wonderfully played by Tony Todd of Candyman fame) informs them that only new life can disrupt death and Clear and Kimberly realise that their only hope may lie with one of the other survivors from the highway who's heavily pregnant... now all they have to do is get to the woman before death does...

Walk it off... it's only a flesh wound!

Final Destination managed to kick start a very successful franchise by focusing on something that should be present in more horror films but isn't, and that's fun. As odd as that might sound, when you consider that a trip to the cinema to watch a scary film is supposed to be an enjoyable event, fun is something often strangely lacking. The Final Destinations, with their "Mousetrap" set-ups of events that finally kill people, and the gory, splattery ways characters kick the bucket, are highly entertaining, and because of the baseline established in the first film coupled with a lighter touch from director David R. Ellis, the sequel is in many ways better than the original.

What makes the second film in the series so enjoyable is how everyone involved ran with the notion that the film was supposed to be good craic and therefore did not take any of it too seriously. Everyone (and I mean everyone) on screen hammed it up to the last, though it actually took a little while to figure out that's what they were doing; it hit me around about the time Clear comes into the film, though looking back the hints were there from the scene on the highway. Even the scriptwriter and definitely the director were taking the piss out of the very film they were crafting. But this is brilliant, as it allows the deaths to be interesting and outlandish which is exactly as you'd want.

The acting was functional enough with Ali Larter once again turning in the best performance, though it was her over the top bit in the psychiatric hospital that went just a little too far that tipped me off to the self parody present in the film. The others are there for the sole purpose of dying except for A.J. Cook as Kimberly. She bothered me a lot in Final Destination 2 and it wasn't until near the end when I finally copped on as to why; she seems to be channelling Juliette Lewis throughout her performance and I can't fucking abide Juliette Lewis!

 This woman, I cannot fucking abide!

The star of the show is undoubtedly death and once again the Grim Reaper puts on a fantastic show, bumping off adults and children alike in increasingly imaginative and bloody ways. In FD2 there's an added twist to some of the deaths in that the elaborate traps and set ups don't often pay off the way you'd expect, and there are a couple of nice little twists to keep you interested. On top of all that, the final scene is brilliantly funny, despite (or maybe because of) the death of a young lad involved!

Two Thumbs Up for Final Destination 2.


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