Buggles review

Final Destination II

Ali Larter, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes, Terrence 'T.C.' Carson, Jonathan Cherry, Keegan Connor Tracy

I remember reading an old Hitchcock interview, where the grandmaster of terror stated that a big part of creating suspense is taking ordinary scenes and giving them a malevolent  context. As an example, visualize a scene in which of two older gentlemen settle down in a bar for an afternoon drink. Pretty dull – they’re probably going to talk about their failed marriages or where to buy Viagra online. But add onto that the context that there's a bomb somewhere in the room and it's about to go off. Suddenly the same scene becomes interesting. You start straining your head to get a peek at every corner of the bar, looking for that explosive. It's a plot device, and a pretty cheap one at that, but it’s held our attention throughout decades of cinema.

The "Final Destination" films are nothing but plot device. The first segment arrived in 2000, and didn't appear to be much more than yet another teen horror flick. I can't even recall the circumstance that caused me to view it, but I did, and I was impressed. The set up was as follows: Several teenagers manage to cheat death by getting off a doomed airplane right before it explodes. But death doesn't like being cheated (He’s an ornery old codger!) and returns to eliminate  the survivors in a series of bizarre accidents. There's no homicidal madman with a hockey mask, but a cosmic ambience trying to enact vengeance on those who frustrated its evil whims. (Of course, it could be argued that the villain isn't even evil, but rather it is the protagonists who are throwing askew the universal order.)

Final Destination II has nothing new to add to the formula, but the formula alone is strong enough to support a sequel. This time round it's not an exploding aircraft (that would be too pre-9/11) but a highway pileup that is set to claim the lives of our group of young, attractive protagonists. Though they are saved from the accident by the premonitions of Kimberley Corman (A.J. Cook) death comes back round and starts claiming the victims in a series of comical and deadly accidents. And I gotta say, some of these deaths are pretty awesome. I suppose it's gauche to compliment a film for its ingenious use of gore, but there are some great scenes - a dude gets trisected by a flying fence (don't ask!), a woman is decapitated by an elevator, another victim literally implodes when struck by a falling object. Extraneous gore is one thing, but Final Destination II gets maximum impact from its really rather limited bloodshed.

The film also gets some mileage out of the interaction of it relative disparate collection of characters - random strangers thrown together when the Grim Reaper puts a collective bounty on them. A.J. Cook’s Kimberly is the standard female heroine that every horror film is powered by - at first girlish and frightened, but ending up stoic and strong. In a nod to the new rock movement, there's a coked out dimwit named Rory (Jonathon Cherry) who could pass for one of The Strokes. The token black guy is played by T.C. Carson, and is basically an updated blaxploitation character for the new millennium. Rounding things out are the prissy yuppie chick (Keegan Conner Tracy), the David Arquettish Highway Patrolmen (Micheal Landes), and the single mom and her teenage son. I won’t give it away, but the movie follows the standard formula per who lives and who dies. Ali Larter reprises her role of Clear Rivers from the first film, as someone who's faced death a lived to talk about it.

While viewing the movie, I found myself realizing that Final Destination II is the evil twin of Michael Moore's recently released "Bowling for Columbine." "...Columbine" argues that America is not nearly as dangerous as its inhabitants make it out, and that our fears are powered more by racism and commercial manipulation than a sense of reality. Final Destination II purports that that world could not be more dangerous, and that a violent  accident can take your life at the smallest misstep. Of course, Final Destination II is fantasy, but it makes one point about fear that would have added a lot to Moore’s film: we like to be scared. Part of us wants to believe the world is out to get us, because it gets our heart racing and blood pounding. Being scared is exciting. And that's what suspense is all about.


Read the review for Final Destination I.

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