Final Destination is available to rent, buy and stream.
Final Destination would not only challenge and change the teen slasher template born from the 80s but, in doing so, create a cinematic universe that would dominate the 00s. Coming from Jeffrey Reddick’s imagination, the idea for Final Destination was initially destined for The X-Files TV treatment. However, New Line Cinema saw the potential for something big, and Reddick was encouraged to flesh out his script into a feature-length film while working alongside The X-Files series writers Glen Morgan and James Wong.
The only certainty in life is death, and as a result, the medium of film has long been obsessed with the figure of the Grim Reaper. The 1990s saw a resurgence of interest in death as a lead character both on the big and small screen, exploring the mythology of the Reaper in several films and TV shows. For example, Meet Joe Black (1998) offered us a sexy Brad Pitt as death in disguise. In contrast, Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners (1996) gave us a ghostly serial killer dressed as the Reaper who carved numbers into his victims’ foreheads. Meanwhile, on television, Reaper and Pushing Daisies would both reimagine the Grim Reaper as they explored concepts of life and death.
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Final Destination, just like its contemporaries, would reimagine the figure of death, but here Reddick would completely discard the hood, gown and sickle. Final Destination would play on our deepest fears of death, fears that niggle at the corners of our minds no matter how confident we may appear. Here Final Destination played with our subconscious and animalistic fears by reimagining the figure of death as an unseen and uncontrollable serial killer who has given each of us a number, date and time.
As John Denver’s classic, Leaving on a Jet Plane plays in a busy airport, flight 180 marks the start of Final Destination’s rollercoaster of horror; and my god, it’s an intelligent introduction to the film’s core concept as it latches on to our deeply entrenched fears of control. Whether you are scared of flying or not, when we board a plane, we place our security, well-being and safety into the hands of a small crew, technology and a thin aluminium tube with powerful engines. We all know there is a risk, just as we do when we board a train or drive a car, but with flying, we know that no matter how small the risk may be, our chance of survival is low in a disaster at 38,000 feet.
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Long before Alex (Devon Sawa) boards flight 180, he feels a sense of impending doom, and this feeling is something we all have at a certain point in our life, as if our subconscious is warning us to take care, take a different route or avoid a long-held travel plan. Here Final Destination mirrors our collective fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time while asking us whether we should trust our intuition or ignore it.
Instinctively, as humans, we desire control over our surroundings; Final Destination understands this and excels in unpicking this sense of control; whether in the form of a speeding bus, a slippery bathroom floor or a level crossing, each deadly scenario is one we like to think we have control over, even though deep down we know we don’t. In creating its horror, Final Destination plays with human psychology and uses it to create a cinematic experience like no other. One where death is stalking us all in an unavoidable game of cat and mouse.
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Many of you reading this may not have seen Final Destination in the cinema on its release, but trust me, James Wong’s film grabbed the audience by the throat and didn’t let go for 1 hour and 38 minutes. Twenty-two years on, none of that power has diminished, despite some lacklustre sequels. Final Destination is not only one of the best horrors of the 00s; it’s a psychological rollercoaster of terror that understands our deepest and darkest fears.