When I was a kid I had a hamster named Mr. Piddles who used to love running really, really fast in his hamster wheel. I, on the other hand, lost complete and total interest in Mr. Piddles and his goddamn wheel approximately ten minutes after first putting it in his cage.
Mr. Piddles ran and ran and ran on that wheel until, finally, desperate for peace and quiet, I let Mr. Piddles play with the kitties.
What does Mr. Piddles (God rest his little rotten soul) and his hamster wheel have to do with Final Destination 2? Well, after ten minutes of this movie I started to feel like Mr. Piddles running madly but getting nowhere.
Is there a reason this film was even made? I mean, considering the vast forests of unsolicited scripts wandering through the Hollywood recycling center, there must be at least a million pages of better movie spinning into pulp. If you’ve blundered into the first Final Destination film then you’ve seen this one. Instead of a plane crash we get a massive car pileup, instead of quick cuts and CGI blood we get... well... we get quick cuts and CGI blood.
There are so many things wrong with this movie it’s hard to capture them all in one document, but let me start with the most obvious problem: there is no tangible killer. When you get right down to brass tacks Final Destination and the sequel are stalk and slash movies, and as we all know, stalk and slash movies only work when we can see the killer stalking and slashing. It also helps if the killer is a trademarked archetype like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger. Seeing the killer work the group of stalk and slash victims, carefully isolating them, waiting for them to make a mistake, and finally springing bloody death is one of the visceral thrills of the genre.
Final Destination has no killer, it instead has completely idiotic, improbable (at least), coincidence leading to the slash part of stalk and slash.
With no killer to follow we also have no characters to root for when they finally confront the evil plague making toaster pastries out of the cast. The killer in Final Destination is death, and it’s not visible, has no point of view, doesn’t overtly influence the characters, and doesn’t do anything. So the characters are simply carried along through a series of events over which they have no chance of gaining control.
Death is omnipotent, relentless, and completely devoid of personality.
Another significant problem with this film is that the characters are about as deep as a piss-puddle on a summer parking lot. None of the characters have any sort of history to speak of, none have any personal relationships to bother giving a shit about, and none of them ever speak about anything not related to their own deaths. This is the sort of writing that millions of aspiring screenwriters churn out in community college creative writing courses, it’s so bad in fact, that watching the characters deal with the shreds of plot is almost as interesting as watching them clip their toenails in silence.
I would have preferred the later.
Final Destination 2 has no plot. Instead we get a simple chain of events and an intriguing central idea. The central idea is more important than the events though, and reads like this: Your life cycle is preprogrammed, doesn’t that suck.
Final Destination 2 (and FD1 for that matter) could have used this idea to build a deep exploration of dread, loss, and mortality. But, that would be in a good movie... Final Destination does little more than pay lip service to the idea of a finite life. Final Destination 2 treats this idea like “Jean Paul Sartre for Idiots”.
Here are the events as presented:
Kimberly Corman (A. J. Cook) and three friends are leaving New Jersey for a week (or weekend or something... it’s never made clear) in Dayton Beach. Her friends have no names to speak of, and this is the first sign that they aren’t getting much screen time. They are archetypes (of course) consisting of the slutty friend, the stoner kid, and the friend of the stoner kid.
As Kimberly drives away in a massive SUV (reason to die number 1 as far as I am concerned) her dad notices a puddle of transmission fluid in the driveway.
Okay, as they drive down the Jersey Turnpike (located, for the purposes of this movie somewhere in British Columbia as evidenced by the snow capped mountains in almost all of the establishing shots). The SUV stops at the end of an onramp (reason to die number 2, I hate when people stop on the onramp... Don’t they know how to friggin' drive?)...
Kimberly notices all the people in all the cars around her, the logging truck that’s whizzing past, the driver of a tractor trailer truck drinking beer while driving, the kid smashing two toy cars together in the passenger seat of his mom’s Pinto, a state cop, a guy whipping through traffic (wet traffic mind you though the sky is cloudless) on a crotch rocket, a kid in a Firebird... the list just keeps on going.
Remember Mr. Piddles running and running and running but not moving even an inch? Well that’s what this sequence is like, it goes nowhere, and worse, uses perhaps the second worst horror film clichéd plot device next to the waking dream. This film uses the premonition.
Anyway, the logging truck loses its load and kills everyone, including Kim and her friends.
But don’t fret! It’s only a premonition! At this point in the film, merely ten minutes into the running time, I seriously considered sneaking into that moronic Tooth Fairy movie, or, even Kangaroo Jack.
The sequence is pretty gruesome, and though I hated the film I pretty much enjoyed the special effects, as logs smash heads, people burn to death, cars flip, explode, slide, impale one another, and generally raise the insurance rates of everyone in North America. It’s like a drivers education film shot by Sam Peckinpah.
Snap to Kim panicking in the driver’s seat of the truck. See, it hasn’t happened, it’s a premonition, just like the kid in the first film with the plane. She notices in mid panic that all of the cars waiting to get on the highway behind her are the ones who were obliterated in her premonition. So, she parks the truck across the exit and has a conniption fit.
This attracts the attention of Officer Burke (Michael Landis) who was at the end of the line. He asks Kim to step outside of the truck, she starts to explain what she thinks will happen to everyone in the traffic line just as the logging truck zooms by.
A moment later the accident happens but because she blocked the traffic behind her none of the intended victims met their assorted makers.
As Kim’s friends look on from inside the SUV the cop yanks Kim out of the way just as a tractor trailer truck wipes out her friends and her 40 thousand dollar ride.
Cut to the police station where some of the characters are gathered together in a room and quizzed by Officer Burke. Why does he question them? HE WAS THERE!!!
Anyway, some mention of “already told your story to the detectives” is made and I had to wonder just what in the hell a homicide detective would have to do with a car accident? Maybe that’s how they do things in fantasy land, but if anyone was going to be investigating the accident, especially involving a tractor trailer or two would be the National Highway Safety Commission and the National Transportation Safety Board.
But I digress...
This is when one of the survivors brings up the story of Flight 180, because, coincidentally it’s the anniversary of the catastrophic plane explosion from the first film. This is the first time the idea of being stalked by death comes up, and it is in such a ham-handed manner that I laughed out loud.
I bet this wasn’t the reaction the film makers were anticipating.
The characters who miss their appointment with death in this film are (and I am guessing at the names because they are so rarely spoken):
Kimberly Corman - an 18 year-old girl who loses ALL her friends yet still remains emotionally functional.
Officer Burke - a state policeman who is perhaps the worst cop I have ever seen in the movies, and I’ve seen all of the Maniac Cop films, so that’s saying something!
Rory (Johnathan Cherry) - A coke-using party guy.
Eugene Dix (Terrence 'T.C.' Carson) - An Easy-Reader-esque teacher.
Kat (Keegan Connor Tracey) - An upwardly mobile, chain smoking, yuppette.
Nora Carpenter (Linda Boyd) - Mother of...
Tim Carpenter (James N. Kirk) - Son of Nora.
Evan (David Paetkau) - A most unlucky lottery winner.
Isabella (Justina Machado) - A pregnant delivery driver.
Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) - A refugee from the first Final Destination movie.
Some other characters exist in this little misplaced New Jersey universe solely to help keep the reams of expository dialogue moving along. We’ll meet them as they appear.
But for now we return to the police station where everyone finishes delivering their lines and leaves. No really, that’s what happens. The scene set up was that they were all in for questioning, and I mean with a one-way glass observer and everything, but they all just get up and go home after each saying their piece.
It’s the inattention to detail that makes me wonder just how stupid the three writers and one BAD director thought the audience was? They must really hold we few moviegoers in contempt to foist this sort of shit on us.
Okay, back to the film...
Kimberly and her dad have a short conversation about premonition, and Kim wonders if her mom had the same sort of visions before she died.
Oh, a dead mother... How... Ordinary.
Take your last look at Kim’s dad because he vanishes from the movie from now on.
Meanwhile the kid who was driving the Firebird struggles to get an iMac and some other stuff into his shit hole of an apartment. I mean really, I know people live like slobs, but this is vile...
We are then treated to the single greatest stupidity chain in film history. While this kid tries to simultaneously cook some frozen meatballs (in a dirty pan, I mean really...) and listen to his answering machine messages while admiring his new expensive jewelry (he’s a lottery winner). This Darwin Award candidate manages to trap his hand in the sink drain just as a massive grease fire leaps off his meatballs and into the conveniently well stocked heap of cardboard beside the stove as his microwave explodes from trying to cook a fridge magnet. He manages to free his hand but the fire extinguisher doesn’t work. Deciding it’s better to leave then burn to death (it took him several seconds to make this decision) he breaks the window and clamors down the fire escape, trips on some previously discarded spaghetti, and dies as the fire escape ladder squishes his head.
I needed oxygen I was laughing so hard.
That night Kim sees creepy shadows. Kat watches TV and worries. Officer Burke researches “premonition” on the Internet. Nora Carpenter reassures her son Tim that everything will be fine and reminds him of tomorrow’s dentist appointment.
Uh oh... Dentist appointment, that can’t be good.
Kim is freaked out enough that she decides to visit the only survivor of Flight 180, Clear Rivers, currently convalescing in an upstate New York mental institution. This is like no mental institution in film history, there appears to be only one nurse, and patients can “voluntarily” take up residence in a padded room, make insane demands of the staff and visitors, and apparently live indefinitely regardless of the much vaunted master plan of the Grim Reaper.
Needless to say Clear Rivers isn’t all that thrilled with the idea of a visit from Kimberly and demonstrates this by standing in the corner and looking sullen. Rather than even pretend to have something akin to a normal conversation both characters simply whine expository dialogue at one another.
Decorating Rivers’ room is a crude mosaic of newspaper tear-sheets with broad marker lines drawn over them. This is supposed to represent the “web” of death stretching out from the crash of Flight 180.
Rivers explains that death follows a distinct order, and the order that the victims were supposed to die determine how they will die now that they aren’t dead... yet...
Got all that? What it basically proposes is that the characters will die in a specific order, and based on Kim’s premonition, they know what order that is and can therefore intervene.
It’s a ludicrous idea, ludicrous and stupid.
This mosaic is so unbelievably silly, I mean insultingly so. To think that someone could make connections to anything based on USA Today articles, especially something as “mysterious” as Death’s master plan, is ludicrous.
Rivers offers Kim some advice straight from “Screenwriting for Dummies”. Look for the signs, she says, because they’ll be your key to avoiding certain death.
Since Kim introduced herself as “I see dead people before they die” no mention is made of using those premonitions as a cheat sheet. Why? Well, this allows us to watch some of the other characters learn how to determine when they are about to die.
Ugh... It makes me angry to be considered as stupid as the filmmakers here think I am...
Rivers refuses to help in any way so Kim leaves Rivers in her padded suite, offering a farewell via a flipped finger.
How, 8th grade of her...
Anyway, Kim returns home (in another Kaiju SUV) and meets up with Officer Burke. She has a vision of pigeons and determines that pigeons will play a part in the next accidental-on-purpose death of one of the accident survivors.
But which one?
Oh, look, fresh from the booby hatch enters Clear Rivers. She’s had a change of heart and agrees to help Kim stave off the inevitable. How did she get to Kim so quickly all the way from upstate New York? No idea. How did she locate Kim in the shadow of New Jersey’s towering mountains? Beats me. It isn’t like you can get on a bus and say “take me to Bob’s house”. Again, more maddening inattention to detail. Rivers sees fit to wear a bellybutton exposing shirt to prove, I guess, that crazy people can demonstrate basic trendy fashion sense and also perhaps to take our mind away from the idiocy of her arrival. I guess she had access to a phone and GAP catalog...
Now we’ve hit the point in the movie where all the basic tenets are set, all that’s left now is to gather the remaining survivors and wait for Death to pick them off one by one. Plus, putting all the characters in one location makes it less expensive to film the movie...
Okay, first things first, they have to get even more exposition from someone, and that someone is poor old Mortician William 'Bill' Bludworth (Tony Todd). Just what sort of career pitfalls have dogged poor Tony Todd? He’s a better actor than Lawrence Fishburne, Denzel Washington, and a whole host of other black actors. Hell, Todd was even a trademarked killer in the Candyman movies (the first of which was quite good), so what in the hell is he doing making a useless cameo in this tripe?
Tony, I’m beggin' you man... READ the scripts your agent sends you. If you see only one page of lines then THROW THE SCRIPT AWAY and put the smack down on your agent. You’re better than this man... Hell, you were my favorite Klingon.
Okay, diatribe over...
Bludworth explains that death can’t be stopped, but the promise of a new life can interrupt Death’s plan and reset the score card for those unlucky enough to... um... be lucky.
Of course, Isabella was pregnant, so her baby MUST be the one that will prevent the deaths of all those who didn’t die when they were expected. Considering about a million babies squirt out of distended wombs all over Planet Earth every 24 hours you’d think Death would be resetting his goddamn scorecards every second. But no, not in this movie.
Before they can assemble the Dream Warriors, Kim, Clear, and Officer Burke must first save Tim from pigeon borne death.
Rather than go through descriptions of the individual and incomprehensibly convoluted deaths offered to the characters I’ll just list the order of victims. The order is Tim then Tim’s mom, then Kat, then Rory, then Eugene Dix.
The efforts they take to stave off death are both asinine and laughable. First they all gather together, then all become skeptical and go their own ways, then get scared into coming back together. The crux of their mission is to make sure Isabella has her baby safely, and to do this Officer Burke sends out an all-points bulletin on the white van she was driving as recorded on cop-car-cam.
Since no one bothered to bring in Isabella for questioning they only have Kim’s memory of her premonition to go by, but in this movie that’s good enough...
Isabella is taken into protective custody by a Sheriff’s deputy (Adam Douglas) who struggles to provide comic relief namely by waving his loaded pistol around while talking. He is a stereotypical deputy in the model of Barney Fife, i.e. stupid.
Why do filmmakers always use Don Knotts as the model for deputies? I mean, really, this show went off the air in like 1968. You’d think there would be an IQ requirement to be a deputy. But then, in a film with a demonstrated IQ of a potato I shouldn’t be surprised.
Well, I wasn’t.
The film culminates with a claustrophobic sequence of events at Lakeside Hospital, and if any of your can’t determine the outcome of the movie at least 45 minutes in advance, then shame on you, but for those thinking impaired who are reading this and wondering what happens let me abstract.
Sacrifices are made, and things look great until one of most unintentionally hilarious final scenes in recent memory. Let’s just say, I grill with charcoal, and there’s a reason.
This review doesn’t even scratch the surface of this films stupidity.
What cheeses me off more than anything else I guess is the idea that a handful of relatively successful Americans somehow are the nexus of death’s activities on Earth. The film sends a convoluted and stupid mixed message: Everybody dies, but not everybody.
As I sat in the theater, mouth agape, as Final Destination 2 careened out of control on the screen I couldn’t help but think about the untold millions of people all over the world who die every day, and in some cases, like the massacres in Rwanda (800,000 dead in 3 weeks), Mostar (30,000 dead over a weekend), and even 9-11-01 where 2500+ people lost their lives in a flash of terrorism, such a senseless and horrible manner. These people didn’t need a convoluted sequence of improbabilities to bring them to their demise, just a machete, or bullet, or crush of concrete, the machinations of evil men.
To me, that’s scary. The idea that a life, family, village, and culture can be effectively snuffed out with such rapid malice, frightens me much more than some pseudo spiritual horse shit about death’s plan.
Death has no plan. We are mortal. It’s that goddamn simple.
Final Destination 2 plays to the documented feeling of invincibility that teenagers seem to cherish, but in such a way as to insult the intelligence of everyone in the audience not under the age or, oh, say 14 or so.
I can imagine the audience that this film was designed to entertain, I see them every night sitting like starry eyed zombies at fake-medium and liar John Edwards as he cold reads gullible Americans about their dead loved ones.
Well, I ain’t one of them.
Overall the non-plot related stuff wasn’t good either.
David Ellis’ direction isn’t anything special. He seems much more concerned with staging elaborate accidents than actually framing the characters in the film. Except when he shoots any motor vehicle (low and fast, usually driving through a film of water) he just points the camera at the actors. It generates no tension, emphasizes no events, and makes no difference. It’s filmed for TV so that when ten billion copies of this crap line the shelves at Blockbuster, who doesn’t stock widescreen films because they assume no one wants to see them, that the action of FD2 will remain squarely in the center of the screen.
The editing is standard MTV quick-cut music video style, a style, incidentally, that I hate. I am not sure what the MPAA had them cut, if anything, but the gore is on screen for less than a millisecond at any given time. Sure, it lets your mind fill in the details (which helps hide the fact that they are ALL CGI) but if you want the audience to be affected by the visuals, we gotta freakin' see 'em’!
The acting is universally deplorable, even Tony Todd faxes in his performance. Ari Larter is almost as bad in this as Heather Graham is in EVERYTHING, almost. The other actors are non-people and have to little useful screentime that they delivered their lines, most of them about being frightened, as if they were selling combination toothpaste and hemorrhoid cream on a late night infomercial.
This film will probably do well enough to warrant yet another entry in this “franchise” and that’s a shame, because somewhere, somehow there’s a good horror film languishing in a slush pile.
Final Destination? Low rent soft core porn!