FT Top 100 Films
74: Final Destination 2

Magnus Anderson says

You’ve seen this film, even if you think you haven’t. Its every fearful build-up, every sudden jump-out-of-your seat moment there’s ever been, from slasher flicks to public information films. And that’s all. Think The Towering Inferno. Think the first ten minutes of Casualty.

It’s pathetically simple as well. A dozen or so people learn that they are destined to die – not for any particular reason, just because fate thinks it’s a good idea – and then, by any means to hand, they do. Suddenly every rusty blade, every loose wire, every swerving car, is a threat, and more ominous still, every solemn look or ominous symbol is a deadly portent. I told a friend I dragged along that it would be about as frightening as Jurrasic Park, but I was so wrong. We spent two hours cowering behind our hands.

In shedding the horror mechanics that even its predecessor bore – the hand of fate was corporeal in that one, gliding water around to cause electric shocks and so on – it represents a purity in the horror, or rather shock, genre that I’ve not seen bettered. Perhaps there’s room to say something profound – that it’s a post-Omen superstition thesis for the secular generation – but the truth is that it can hardly be said to have captured a zeitgeist. The film knows its job and succeeds through accomplished execution rather than ambition. And it was the most fun I had had in a cinema for months.

Alan Trewartha says:

The modern (ahem) high concept teen slashers we’ve had since Scream (1996) often revolve around a whodunnit twist. Every phoney plot device is thrown at you to distract you from the final reveal. But does it matter? Choose a character. Right they’re the killer – circumstances can always be explained ad hoc to fit such a resolution, and no choice is ever any cleverer or memorable than any other. FD sidesteps such mundane matters brilliantly by not only telling you up front who the killer is, but also that the killer isn’t even a member of the cast. When you watch these films you don’t care whodunnit, but you are stealing yourself to see (and cringe from) how they did do it.

With a sequel of course you don’t even have to spend act one getting the order of things established – the concept is already sky-high, ballistic and waiting to land. So we can just sit back and watch whining teens (well 20-somethings) getting dispatched as imaginatively as possible. But the contrast to Omen 2’s po-faced parade of bizarre and arbitrary deaths couldn’t be more exact. The writers of FD tease us with great comic timing, using every ounce of the Casualty-prologue inevitability they set up, playing us against our expectations (the scene in the dentists is excruciating for all the wrong reasons), then delivering one final outrageous spectacle. Indeed the entire film itself ends on one final gunshot of a punchline.

Funny and scary are hard to pull off at the same time – they undermine one another too well – and the visceral joy of jumping from one to the other in the same breath is rare.