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Focus on the Frightful: Final Destination Series

Recently the Kali Krew watched the Final Destination series. I was so excited to watch with everyone. Partly because I love gushing about movies with my friends (and throwing out random trivia at random intervals) but it also made me appreciate anew what a tight series it is. In five movies they only had one meh one and one bad one. And the meh one was watchable and the bad one at least was so bad it was hilarious. And they wrapped up the series so tightly that if they ever ‘reboot’ it, it will ruin it.

Below there will be spoilers for the series as a whole and heavy spoilers for Final Destination 5

(There will also be an immoderate amount of fangirling over a certain actor)

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Final Destination

Final Destination movie cover

The movie that kicked off the series and has become such a cultural touchstone that even if you haven’t watched it you still somehow know about it. It also had a unique premise that was a little different for the time. You can escape a house, you can escape a ghost but you can’t escape Death. I realize that it’s not a wholly original idea but it felt unique. The deaths were remarkably restrained compared to the gore spectacles of later entries in the series. It also features one of my favorite performances of Tony Todd.

Includes gore and mortuary scene
Credit to Fandango MovieClips for the clip

I could rewatch that forever…

Anyways, where was I? Oh yes, the rest of the movie. I will reign in my usual compulsion to do a full-on synopsis but just hit the highlights. There’s the premonition, the plane explosion and the cycle of Death begins.Final Destination felt wrapped up at the end but with just enough leeway for a sequel. And one was created.


Final Destination 2

Final Destination 2 movie cover

Whether they intended on a sequel or not, I don’t know but they did it very well and even managed to give it a little bit of a new spin. The sequel is kind of meh, for me, but is still a solid sequel and entertaining and enjoyable to watch. This is where they really find their predilection for squishing the oh-so-squishable human body. A lot of the signs and omens point heavily to Flight 180 which makes sense as the characters lives are directly connected to the events of the first movie. Which was an interesting way to go about it. It’s Death cleaning up, working backwards. I believe that three was mentioned on one of the special features but it also makes sense that it was intended to stop here. Maybe they were waiting for viewer reaction and money numbers before committing to a third movie.

And, of course, Bludworth makes an appearance to explain to our screwed protagonists what is going on, exactly. And also further cements my idea that he’s either Death himself or the Grim Reaper. Personally, I lean toward the Grim Reaper because he talks about Death as if he knows it but is outside of it, in a way.

Tony Todd in Final Destination 2

Clear is back and it’s revealed that Alex was killed by a falling brick (offscreen). Kimberly stopped to watch a news report on Todd’s death (FD) and was not killed with her mother when someone stole their car. The police officer, Burke was called off to investigate Billy Hitchcock’s beheading (FD) and his partner was killed. Eugene was called to replace Val Lewton as a teacher and the teacher who replaced him was killed by a student. Kat would have been at a bed and breakfast where there had been a gas leak and all of the guests suffocated during the night. She never got there because the bus she was on hit and killed Terry. Rory had tickets to a theatre in Paris that collapsed, killing everyone inside but he was distracted by Carter getting thwacked with the sign at the end of Final Destination. Nora, Evan and Tim are dead at this point but I’m sure they would have had similar stories. The only ones really left would be something to do with Clear (which, would have actually been a great scene, having Clear hear exactly how she changed someone’s fate) and/or Alex.

I like how neatly it fits together. It has very few plot holes and it’s clear there was effort put in to make it clear and cohesive. I like that.

From the tagline of “for every beginning there is an end” and the plot of Death working backward to clean up loose ends it feels as though Final Destination 2 was supposed to be the ‘final’ one. But when has that ever stopped Hollywood?


Final Destination 3

Final Destination 3 movie cover

I really like that they never subtitled the Final Destination movies. I don’t know why but it pleases me in some way. They don’t really need them. By Final Destination 3 you know what you’re getting. Premonition, event, go! I’ve also always liked that they don’t show the event twice. They go into gruesome detail with it during the premonition and then let the actual event happen in the background. They don’t fall into the repetition trap, trying to fit in just a little bit more gore. I also like that they’re not romance based. During them the two leads will have some chemistry and maybe a hint of romance but it’s never the main focus.

I definitely appreciate the carnival setting of the disaster in this one. They are freaky places and if you have a morbid imagination you just look at all the rides and imagine all the things that can go wrong.

There are also slight references to the previous movies in this movie, as well. A Hice Pale Ale truck from Final Destination 2 is what blocks Wendy and Kevin in at the drive-thru. The Devil’s Flight is another slight reference to the first movie and the exit to the rollercoaster says “I’ll see you soon” as well as featuring the voice of Tony Todd as the Devil on the Devil’s Flight coaster (and appears again as the subway speaker’s voice saying “this is the end of the line“).

Kevin also brings up Flight 180 and the highway crash when he’s trying to convince Wendy about what’s going on.

Which brings us to Final Destination 4…


Excuse me…The Final Destination

The Final Destination

The Final Destination movie cover

It’s cute they thought this was going to be the last Final Destination movie. Thank goodness wiser heads prevailed somewhere and made Final Destination 5. Adding the five definitely makes this movie a legit part of the series. So, any connections?

The race track they’re at is the McKinley Speedway (McKinley is the name of the high school and town and a character in Final Destination 3). A advertisement reads Clear Rivers Water. They are seated in section 180, a bus passing the cafe they have coffee at is bus 180. In the diner scene, during the report of the accident, there is a brief news item about ‘faulty amusement park equipment’. Hice Pale Ale also makes another appearance,

It’s clear they wanted to ‘get to the good stuff’ because they zoom through the premonition a bit to be able to get to the smearing. Which is fine, most of the characters are either unlikeable and/or bland so we don’t really need to get to know them too well before we see what their insides look like.

The Final Destination is easily the worst of the series but at least it’s in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. The car wash scene in particular always give me the giggles. There is no heavy philosophy, just lots of mostly unpleasant and bland people getting squished, sliced and diced in various, ever more over-the-top ways.

You also get two premonitions and two gore-fests for the price of one. Ironic since it has the shortest run time of the series. Let’s just be thankful that this wasn’t The Final Destination.


Final Destination 5

Final Destination 5 movie cover

And now we come to the finale. By the way, did I mention there’d be spoilers? One more warning…SPOILERS!

So, we’ve got the same set up. A bus full of colleagues is heading to a weekend team-building event. Our main protagonists are a chef-in-training mulling over a job proposal in Paris. He and his girlfriend are a bit rocky because she doesn’t want to hold him back. Weirdly, neither mention her going with as an option until the end.

The disaster in this movie is a bridge collapse. Our heroes survive and start dying in various gruesome ways. One particularly gut-turny scene involves an eyeball and a laser. After FD4 I was fully prepared for characters that were marginal and gore that was spectacular. I was pleasantly surprised. The Tom Cruise-alike is a supervisor that appears to be having a relationship with an intern. I was prepared for it to be an “oh, I don’t know you outside of the bedroom” sort of thing but no, they had a real relationship going. Most of the characters had a bit of depth to them. Of course, Death is the real character and is just as omnipresent in this movie as the others. They step a bit back, though, on the spectacle and focus more on the tension and creepiness that the first movie had. Especially one tense scene involving a balance beam, a barefooted gymnast and a nail. Lilyn, Sam and I were tense until the climax (hehe). Then she gets nailed. Assholes were clenched, feet were hiding.

There are some light references to the previous movies but Final Destination 5 is not as reference heavy to the first movie. Which I thought was them backing away from it a little but no, there’s a reason.

Tony Todd is back as Bludworth and I’m so happy because the series ender just would not be the same without him.

Tony Todd in Final Destination 5

Uhhh, where was I?

Oh yeah! Movie.

When the end hits, it hits with a bang. At the end our protag couple boards the plane to head to Paris and their new lease on life. Right?

Well, turns out there’s a disturbance on the plane. Some crazy kid is causing a ruckus and he and his classmates get thrown off the plane. What kooky kids!

This ending hit with such a bang. When Lilyn, Sam and I watched it Sam had never seen it and Lilyn only vaguely remembered it so I was waiting gleefully til the end, hoping they’d get as strong a reaction as I did to it. I was not disappointed. I quote from our Discord conversation:

Sam: OHHHHH!
OHHHHHHH! OH SHIT!

Lilyn: HOLY shit

Sam: THAT’S A GODDAMN GOOD ENDING!
SO GOOD!

Lilyn: Fuuuuuuuck.
I approve
I APPROVE

This. This is the reason the references were so light. This is the reason it takes our heroes a while to catch on to what’s going on. This is why Bludworth says he’s “seen it before“. We took it to mean he was talking about the first movie and subsequent ones but no, it’s just another time that this cycle has happened before. Which is actually creepier in retrospect. It’s happened before. And it will happen again.

But let’s just talk for a second about how damn satisfying of an ending it is and as a series as a whole. If they hadn’t kept up the references through the series, it would have failed. Well, not failed, exactly but it would have had nowhere near the same punch to it. With the movies constantly referencing each other it made the wold feel more connected so you could really buy the ending of 5. Take note, this is how you pull a hard twist.

There are also no references to the 2011 time period. The only thing marking the age is the flip phone but it’s not impossible that some people were still using them. So it stands out enough to make you wonder but not enough to tip you off.

This is a solid movie with a solid series wrap-up that is far more satisfying than most. I really hope they don’t reboot this or make another sequel. A sequel would ruin the nice closed loop they have going on. A reboot would probably just turn out meh. I mean, really, the odds are against it. Even at its worst it’s great.

Published inFocus on the Frightful

6 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh! Thanks y’all for sending me on that trip down memory lane. I’ve now seen all 5 movies. I’d forgotten that I’d seen 4 (and I agree that it’s the worst) and have never seen 5 but my reaction to the end was similar. The first and the fifth are my favs.

    I was looking for clues in the fifth and remembered seeing “180” mentioned in a news thing or TV commercial (I think) but it wasn’t in relation to a flight. It was like a hiking or mountain trail thing. Can’t remember.
    Anyway, this was loads of fun. Agree with everything you said above. And I read somewhere that another one will be made, but I too don’t want another because I like the end here.

    Also, it wasn’t until I got to the fifth one that I became convinced that Tony Todd’s character is Death or some sort of representative of it.

    • I’m glad they held up on the rewatch! They do hold up really well for how old they are. The effects are still pretty dang good.

      I really hope they don’t do a reboot either!

  2. I love this series too and reading though your post made me want to go rewatch them. It’s been a while and I’ve forgotten some details, but I was so hooked on these movies through high school so on.
    I also loved that they didn’t subtitle them and I thought the first movie was a bit unique for its time. I want to go rewatch them and come back to your post.

    • I hope you enjoy them on the re-watch!

  3. I did so enjoy this series.
    I found the actor in the first one, Devon Sawa (I was surprised to find he was the live-character actor for 1995’s Casper), a bit… annoying, really. Also, some of the writing really sucked.

    Point in fact, when Alex went to the cabin and they ‘death-proofed’ it, he sat to have a can of potted meat. After putting on a pair of welding gloves (? it takes that to make sure the tiny lid doesn’t cut your finger off?), he opens the can and begins to forcibly masticate (making sure there are no bones, I suppose?). When the breeze that heralds danger comes, things start falling and trigger the closet door to open. Alex jumps over and stops it just as a large knife sticks into the wood RIGHT NEXT TO HIS (funky) HEAD! Then, he reached in and pulls out a rusty fish hook. “Tetanus,” he says. “Tricky…”
    I wanted to scream, “No, Idiot, the big, stinking knife in the door next to your funky head!!!”

    • I had the same reaction to that scene! Like DUDE, how did you miss the knife?!

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