New Line Home Cinema presents
Final Destination: Platinum Edition (2000)
"I'm moving on, Carter. And if you want to waste your life beating the s*** out of Alex every time you see him, then you can just drop f****** dead."- Terry (Amanda Detmer)
Stars: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith
Other Stars: Tony Todd
Director: James Wong
MPAA Rating: R for extreme gore, violence and terror, and for language
Run Time: 01h:37m:34s
Release Date: 2000-09-26
Genre: suspense thriller
DVD ReviewFinal Destination is a very complex movie. It deals with deep, relevant, pressing, existential issues. This is a movie that any intelligent member of the human race should be required to see and discuss. Well, ok, no it isn't. What it is is an above-average teen thriller with a great premise and some of the most amazing and shocking special effects I have ever seen. It takes a lot to get me to jump during a horror film, so Final Destination must have a lot... and more.
Alex (Devon Sawa) is just boarding the plane for his senior trip to Paris when he gets a startling, realistic vision of the flight's fiery demise. He freaks out and ends up getting himself, a teacher, and five other students kicked off the flight, which promptly explodes on take-off, exactly as Alex predicted. They count themselves lucky, but perhaps they shouldn't feel quite so relieved. It appears that Death intended for them to die on that flight, and it is going to do anything thing it can to make up for their survival, even if it means some of the ickiest on-screen deaths in cinema history. Now, something as simple and everyday as making a cup of tea could mean a gruesomely creative demise; and it is up to Alex to discover and disrupt Death's plan.
Horror films are easy to make. They sell well, cost little, and don't require much in the way of star power or acting ability. All you need is a cool killer and some dumb dialogue, and you got yourself a franchise. Horror films, however, are not easy to make well. Studios seem to regularly ignore this important little fact in the hopes that video gross will put them in the black. I mean, did anyone SEE Urban Legend: Final Cut? I have met the star of the film personally (Jennifer Morrison, fellow student at Loyola University), and I didn't go. Why? Because it was a trashy horror film! If I wanted to see something derivative, I'd rent a De Palma movie - The makers of Final Destination, on the other hand, have sidestepped all the usual problems with the horror/thriller genres to create a unique and suspenseful film that packs in the scares and leaves out the predictability. Sure, there IS the whole "who will die next" element (hmmm - this character isn't important. Think he'll be next?), but it isn't really much of a problem, because it fits into the whole "Death's plan" element of the movie. What works best are the elaborate (and graphic) death scenes. I don't want to give away any of the genuine shocks and scares in the film, but I must commend death—he is one creative guy!
One of the most refreshing aspects of the film was the acting. There is nothing I hate more than bad acting in a major film. I can't watch it in the Freddy movies, and it tends to really get on my nerves in the Bond series. With all the millions of talented actors in the world, I don't see why movies continue to star morons who couldn't display a realistic emotion at their grandma's funeral. The actors here, however, are all good, and if you consider the "plague of perpetual badness" that seems to hang over actors in this type of film, they are darn near excellent. Devon Sawa plays a good lead—his freak out on the plane was very believable (although I guess everyone hates to fly). Also of note was Kerr Smith, breaking the mold of his gay Jack character on Dawson's Creek with a "tough guy" turn. Others in the cast include such teen movie staples as Chad Donella (Disturbing Behavior) and Sean W. Scott (American Pie, Road Trip). I'm not saying that these are award caliber performances, but it was nice to see an actor in a horror film that actually knew how to deliver a line of dialogue.
Both director James Wong and writer Glen Morgan were part of Chris Carter's X-Files team, and their work on that show really shines through here. As in Carter's series, Final Destination deals with elements of the supernatural, the unknown. Both are shot in a similar style: everything happens at night, everything is spooky and mysterious, and music cues are used so frequently that your nerves are on edge the entire show/movie. The action and special effects scenes were very well shot, and Wong showed a lot of restraint in the death scenes. While they are some of the most gruesome ever recorded on film, they never feel like overkill. There aren't buckets of blood sloshing around the screen. For the most part, everything looks very realistic (which probably explains why they are so scary!)
All in all, Final Destination comes off far better than it should. The great concept, good actors, and even direction combine to produce one of the better teen thrillers in recent years. While it is true that the film loses some of its steam by the final reel (and arguably has a weak ending, but blame the test audiences—see below), overall this makes for a great thriller. Watch it sitting next to someone you love. Then they won't mind when you jump in their lap.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: This is another excellent transfer from our dear friends at New Line. Black level is excellent throughout, even in rain scenes. I noticed no blurring or shimmer on fine detail, and just a bit of edge enhancement. Colors seemed a bit muted and metallic, but I think this is intentional. Really, I wish every DVD had an image like New Line discs.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Quality sound has become something to expect from every New Line disc as well, and they certainly don't disappoint here. This is a very active track, with a lot of surround effects and cool atmospheric touches. The plane scene at the beginning of the film is a potential demo, what with the wind rushing around you and explosions occurring from all sides. Dialogue is always clear and the sound effects never overpower. The score is mixed nicely into the mains and surrounds, and the LFE is strong when needed. This disc certainly lives up to the New Line name.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
Isolated Music Score with remote access
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Filmmaker commentary with James Wong, Glen Morgan, James Coblentz, and Jeffery Riddick; actor commentary with Devon Sawa, Kerr Smith, Kristin Cloke, and Chad E. Donella
Layers Switch: 01h:02m:03s
- Interactive games
First up are the two screen-specific audio commentaries and the isolated score with commentary. Now, first of all, I know this movie was pretty popular, but is anyone (well, besides me) actually going to listen to both of these? With all three commentaries plus the film, we are talking 6 and a half hours watching this movie. Still, more extras can't be a bad thing, and I have to give New Line props for giving DVD afficionados what they want. The filmmaker commentary features the director James Wong, writers Jeffery Riddick and Glen Morgan, and editor James Coblentz. They were recorded together, and with four people to speak, there is obviously very little downtime. Everyone has a lot to say, from story development to the drastic changes that took place during the test screening process. Generally this is a good listen, and the speakers don't take the film too seriously (like when I watched the commentary for Conan the Barbarian and the director kept talking about metaphor—look, NO Schwarzenegger movie has ever featured a mataphor). The other commentary with the actors, however, is the real gem. Almost all the major players from the young cast are featured, and they were recorded together as well. The result is one of the funnier commentaries I have listened to recently. The actors offer a lot of information about the filming process of course, but they aren't afraid to make fun of each other in the process. A very interesting listen if the movie freaked you out too much and you want something to lighten you up a bit. The isolated score is a different story, however. First of all, I didn't think the score in the film was anything better than the usual horror score (ooo - lots of violins!). The composer, Shirley Walker, has done the scores for a lot of popular films, but nothing where you come out of the film humming the main theme, you know? Like, who owns the score album to Escape from L.A.? She comments during the breaks in the score, so none of the music is lost, but what she has to saw is not all that interesting, and she seems to run out of steam near the end of the film. Not really worth a listen (I only made it a few minutes in before I started skipping around).
Next up there are two featurettes/documentaries, one good, one not so good. The good: Test Screenings, a 10-minute piece that discusses the test screening process and the changes that resulted in the film based on audience opinion. In some ways, I agree with the changes that were made, but it was also nice to hear the director's opinion on the changes that were essentially forced upon the film. The second featurette is kind of stupid, and I really question its inclusion on this disc. It deals with a real life woman who believes she (and her family) have psychic powers. She tells several stories about premonitions that she had, and there are interviews with her kids that preview the tough times they are going to have once they get into high school. Here's a tip, kids. Don't go around telling people that you can read minds if you don't want to get made fun of. The piece runs 20 minutes, and it overstays its welcome by about 10. I really didn't want to listen to this lady ramble on. Why didn't they put a special-effects documentary on here or something?
Two deleted scenes and an alternate ending are included, all in finished form. The deleted scenes deal with a romance that was cut from the film, and I believe it was a good choice—not only do they no fit into the tone of the movie, but they slow down some crucial scenes as well. The alternate ending, on the other hand, was quite nice. It added a less horrific, more spiritual slant to the film, and I think it was a nice addition. Still, I understand the changes that were made, and I appreciate the opportunity to see the deletions here.
Rounding out the disc are cast filmogrophies (but not bios—why does New Line do this?) and the theatrical trailer in 5.1 sound (very nice!), plus two interactive games, both of which are incredibly stupid. I guarantee that you will not complete them more than once, and most won't get halfway through either. Bad! A waste of DVD technology! Overall, this is a good package, but I question the inclusion of the psychic documentary in place of something on, say, the special effects. Overall, however, this makes an excellent addition to the New Line Platinum Series, and at least the movie was better than Lawnmower Man or Lost in Space.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsTo be honest, I have never been a big fan of the horror genre. I just don't find watching stupid people getting killed by predictable killers entertaining. Well, except for Scream, but that was only good because of the way it deconstructed the horror genre. Which is why I was so surprised by Final Destination. This films takes the usual pattern of cast members being killed off one by one and twists it, making it very creative. The characters here aren't stupid teens walking off into the woods alone to make out, they are normal people doing everyday things. That is why it's so scary!
Joel Cunningham 2000-10-12