“A cheap horror movie made back its budget? Well I’ll be! Looks like we’ve got a franchise. Make ’em till they stop making money!”
– Every Hollywood exec ever
Final Destination 2 (2003)
This one’s got tits. Normally I don’t really bother with pointing that stuff out, because it’s like saying a Michael Bay film has explosions. But the last film was decidedly mammary-free and this one has a biker chick flashing us a facefull of bad silicone three minutes in. It’s the only shot, but it’s indicative of the whole ethos of Final Destination 2: more, goddammit, more, and damn the logic besides!
It’s been one year since the flight that kicked off the original Final Destination. We know this because we see multiple news clippings and a local cable access TV show over the opening credits over-explaining the original movie (like you cared). We’re introduced to Kimberly, who has a similarly extensive premonition about a giant accident on the interstate involving a log truck which kills herself, her friends, and a bunch of other people I don’t recognize and couldn’t name.
The premonition saves most of the people, but Death is at it again and Kimberly’s SUV full of friends who we expect to be our new group is instantly killed. Thus begins Final Destination 2, which goes out of its way to subvert our expectations of how these movies work just to do the exact same thing again.
Kimberly quickly buys into the idea of ‘Death’s Design’ and decides to find Clear Rivers (still a surprisingly game Ali Larter) who was able to survive all of the perils of the last movie (including the hero being killed between movies in the lamest way possible) but is unable to escape her stupid, stupid name. She’s in an asylum on her own volition, sealed in a padded room where nothing bad could possibly happen to her. Until Kimberly guilts her into leaving, of course, to help with the rising body count.
Kim and Clear and this cop guy all end up back with Tony Motherfuckin’ Todd, Candyman himself, still playing his weirdly prescient and unexplained mortician-who-knows-the-plot, who goes ahead and explains the new twist like he was in on the script meetings: they can change the plan and survive if they bring a new life into the world, which will count as an exchange and throw death off.
Thus begins this bizarre plot for the group of survivors to find a pregnant woman who was in the crash, all the while Kimberly is having extreme premonitions of what’s about to happen. Not like bad feelings, but straight up Chuck-style flashes of the future. Which is already kind of weird for a movie about Death’s inevitability, but then suddenly in a scene that seems to come out of nowhere we find out that every single person in the plot is someone connected to one of the murders in the first movie, narrowly missing their own death when one of the first group of bodies bit it.
Which takes this from a rather simple slasher-without-the-slasher to some half-mystical, we-are-all-connected hippie bullshit wrapped around people getting murdered real well. Look, I’m all for the universality of all things, but it doesn’t mean that I want my horror films over-explained in a nice neat brain-damaged bow.
Anyway, people get killed, we do this stupid game of being misdirected by Kimberly’s flashes like that crazy vampire girl in Twilight, and then finally we run out of people and the movie ends. There’s not a whole lot special here because it’s not a very special movie. It feels ridiculous at times, freely throwing its own paper-thin logic into the fire to watch it burn. And I’ll admit that has a certain charm, but the problems are adding up fast.
First off, none of these new people have any of the personality of the kids in the first movie. I might have hated Seann William Scott’s stupid face, but he’s way better than any of these people, generic stereotypes meant to take up space and bleed out. Ali Larter does her best, god bless her, but Clear Rivers is never going to grow up to be an Ash Williams or Reggie Bannister. There’s no bad guy to be badass at, no heroism to be had.
Which brings us to the kills. These movies live or die by their elaborate machinations, predating Saw and serving more as hilarious domestic accident warnings than mean-spirited torture porn. But this movie is from the age of gratuitous CG, and there’s barely a practical effect to be found. CG logs, CG blood, CG fire. You want it, you’ve got it, lovingly rendered with all the verisimilitude of a direct-to-video masterpiece. The car crash that opens the movie is surprisingly solid, if a little overdone on the explosions-side, but everything else is laughably amateur.
The Best Kill
A young boy named Tim and his mother Nora were part of the survivors. Before everyone is on ball with the plot, they’re going about their business and Tim’s in the dentist’s office. His mother is in the waiting room, where a fish tank starts leaking towards her feet, the water dripping past a power outlet and picking up the telltale CG spark that screams ‘deadly water’ as if we didn’t know.
We get some great, tense-in-real-life scenes of Tim having injections into his mouth and drilling, strapped to a chair with his mouth pried open like Alex DeLarge’s eyes mid-Ludovico. At this point pigeons start hitting the glass outside, cracking it and startling us out of the mundane horror of dentistry. The birds, though, miss their target and break into the waiting room, startling Nora in time to save her from electrocution.
This chaos leaves Tim in the chair while the dentist tends to the bird in the waiting room. Suddenly the oxygen in the nitrous tank dies, leaving only the nitrous gas. Then a fake fish from the mobile on the ceiling snaps and falls into his mouth, choking him. Tim, too weak to pull it out, begins to cry as he suffocates, only to have the nurse pull it out at the last second. The day is saved!
Until, when leaving the dentist, he sees the pigeons standing around and scares them, causing a nearby crane operator to become startled and drop the controls of the giant window pane he was hoisting up. It falls flat on Tim, squashing him like a watermelon. Ciao, Tim.
The “Best” Kill
None of these are particularly funny, admittedly. The dumbest one comes at the expense of the token black character and our would-be hero Clear Rivers, who escaped death a dozen times and created a foolproof system and even remained cool despite her god awful name.
At the end of the film we get the black guy in the hospital, where he’s hooked up to a ventilator after almost getting killed before. Death tries to do him in anyway, by sealing off the room and his ventilator slowly starting to slide across the room, threatening to pull out the cord as it goes. It nearly does, too, until right at the end our heroes off doing hero things save the day and he survives. Only to find out they aren’t quite done when Clear opens the door and fixes the plug, causing a spark in the oxygen-rich sealed room which blows them both up in a massive CG fireball.
Oh Clear, we hardly knew ye. See you in Heroes, where you will again be wasted on bad material.
Kimberly and Cop Guy, who Kimberly might be into but who knows, are having dinner with some people who helped them out during the 2nd act of the movie. It is a nice, quiet BBQ until their son reveals that he’s also lucky to be alive, being pulled out of the way of an out-of-control news van by one of the other characters in a throwaway scene earlier in the movie.
As our heroes look at each other, the son goes to check on the BBQ, which promptly explodes into a massive fireball, sending his charred, severed arm flying into the air only to land in front of the mother as she starts to scream. Isn’t that clever?! Dinner is served, a movie is made, and we roll on to Final Destination 3. Because of course we do.