New Line/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 86 mins .
MA15+ . PAL
“Death awaits you all... with nasty big pointy teeth.” - Tim the Enchanter, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
“Well, you’re dead now, so shut up.” - The Grim Reaper, Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.
“Best two out of three?” - Death, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
Log, log, log - it's big, it's heavy, it's wood.
Death. It’s inevitable. Just when you think that you’ve got the complexities of life mastered, you turn on the TV news and lo and behold, along comes the bony hand of Mr Death to offer a quick reality check along with a reminder that you - yes, you - could be next. It’s a universal fear that filmmakers have happily exploited over the years, with one of the favoured genres for all this fatal being, of course, the splatter movie. A sub-genre of horror that essentially involves a bunch of people being killed off in a series of generally nasty, gruesome and graphic ways, it’s perhaps not everyone’s idea of a good time. But there’s a visceral thrill in a well-executed (har!) splatter flick, an adrenalin rush from the suspense-and-shock assault of the unfolding events. Those poor hapless people up there on the screen might be having a fairly miserable time before being dispatched to the great unknown, but the make-believe carnage, if done right (and done with a sense of humour), turns what would seem to appeal to the most base level of the human psyche and turns it into a cinematic rollercoaster ride. You know the people on screen are going to die, but you don’t know when or how. The one thing you do know is that you’re walking away from the experience unharmed. In a properly-done splatter flick, it’s all in the spirit of fun. Those after mean-spirited aggression would be better off with the nearest action movie.
The first Final Destination, released in 2000, was originally conceived as a storyline for The X Files, and as a result had a strong undercurrent of spookiness and tension about it. In that film, student Alex and a bunch of his friends were thrown off a plane just before takeoff after Alex had a vision of the future - the plane exploding in mid-air. As they watch from the terminal, the plane does explode in mid-air, and the students that escaped feel like they’ve cheated death in a decidedly eerie way. But not for long; soon it becomes clear that death is coming for them, determined to finish the job that should have been taken care of on board the plane. One by one they die, until Alex and his goofily-named friend Clear Rivers figure out how it might just be possible to cheat death once and for all.
Upon that film’s release, it soon became clear what audiences were enjoying the most - and it wasn’t the X Files-style cleverness. No, what the people wanted to see were the deaths, and the more creative the better. There were only two places where decapitation scores a loud cheer: one was in the audience at an execution in France during the revolution, and the other was in a cinema screening Final Destination. A sequel seemed inevitable, even though virtually none of the characters from the first film lived to play again in #2. No problem there - simply grab another batch of victims and let them meet their fates as nastily as possible, throwing in a few token scenes of psychobabble and speculation to serve as a plot. Bingo, we have a sequel.
Why 25" subwoofers in cars are a bad idea.
Kimberly Corman (A.J Cook, best known for her role in The Virgin Suicides) and a bunch of her friends are heading off on a road trip when, without warning, she has a chilling vision of the immediate future - a sickening, explosive multi-car freeway crash that would leave them all decidedly dead, along with a good amount of other road users. She panics, and decides to stop herself and the cars behind her from driving on to the freeway by parking across the on-ramp. And of course, her vision becomes reality shortly afterwards, as she watches the destruction from a safe distance and doubtless feels lucky to be alive. But unfortunately for her, death has other plans; sure enough, people who escaped the crash thanks to Kimberly’s intervention suddenly start dying in violent and inexplicable ways. Realising that this event has happened on the anniversary of the plane explosion and subsequent carnage from the first film, she contacts the sole survivor, Clear Rivers (it seems that Alex, who was still alive at the end of film #1, finally got his delayed death thanks to a falling brick!) Together, Kimberly and Clear work out the expected order of deaths, using a hypothesis so immensely silly you can’t help but admire their conviction. And as they try to nut out what to do, one by one the survivors start getting bumped off in some very creative and spectacular ways…
Resoundingly panned by critics at the time of its theatrical release, Final Destination 2 is actually an enormously fun piece of popcorn cinema that never takes itself too seriously. This instalment isn’t here to break new ground in the horror or sci-fi genres, and it hasn’t really got anything much to say to the audience. It’s a big, loud, flamboyant theme park ride with an unashamed love of being as over-the-top as possible, from the dialogue to the deaths. Directed with wonderful flamboyance by first-timer David R Ellis (and experienced second unit director and action scene specialist), this very short and hugely entertaining follow-up wastes little time in kicking into high gear with the superbly-staged freeway crash, one of the most exciting action sequences we’ve seen in a long time. From then on it’s all goofy dialogue, red herrings aplenty and, of course, gory and violent deaths done in all manner of inventive ways. With a special effects department that seems to have a real fondness for good old-fashioned bloodletting, this one’s not for the squeamish - but then, it’s all so cartoonish and silly that there’s really nothing here to get offended by. The cast are obviously having fun, and as long as you’re not expecting Citizen Kane, so will you. Watch it with a room full of friends for best results.
Never entrust your car to Rammstein Transport Inc.
Ah, New Line, how hard you make it for us poor hapless reviewers. I mean, how many ways are there to say “flawless”?
Presented at its theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 and of course 16:9 enhanced, this video transfer is right up there at the forefront of the state of the art, with everything spot-on. Detail, depth, colour saturation, black levels and shadow detail are all perfect, and there’s not a scratch or bit of dust on the film source to be seen.
So what do we do if there’s nothing to complain about? Good question. Well, dinner tonight was pumpkin gnocchi with ricotta and spinach sauce, garnished with herbs and cooked to perfection. It was delicious, and easily worthy of a second helping. The secret to making good gnocchi is all in the timing - you’ve got to make sure that you rescue the little elliptical bits of goodness from the pot as soon as they float to the top - no earlier, no later. If you do it right, you’ll end up with satisfied guests and a nice full stomach. And then you can watch a few of the gruesome deaths in Final Destination 2 and take bets on who throws up first. Everybody wins.
Speaking of the film, it’s authored on a dual-layered DVD, but there’s no layer change to navigate - the movie’s got one layer to itself, and the extras occupy the other.
A brave attempt to get up to page 1470 of the new Stephen King novel before bedtime.
Get on the phone to your neighbours before putting this disc in the player, and say to them “look, I know you don’t like all that noise when I play DVDs really loud, but I just wanted to let you know that the sonic devastation you’re about to endure tonight is probably going to annoy you beyond belief, and you might be best off going out for a few hours if that’s not too much trouble.”
Okay, neighbours all gone? Good. Select the DTS-ES audio option, crank up the volume and prepare for a sonic feast - this is one of those soundtracks. The full surround stage is used constantly throughout, with effects cheerfully whizzing across the front speakers, around the back for a bit of directional fun, and right behind your head if you happen to have an EX or ES decoder and the extra rear centre speaker. The LFE channel is constantly active, very effective and possibly illegal in two states. Fidelity throughout is superb - particularly on the DTS track, where the sub-bass is more prominent and impactful - but the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track (the default) won’t disappoint either. A matrixed Dolby Surround track is provided for those who listen through two speakers or headphones.
Released in the US as an “Infinifilm” title by New Line, this Roadshow version manages to include all the extras except for the DVD-ROM content and the “Infinifilm” linking to extra material (all of which is here, but accessed sequentially). The animated menus are backed by Dolby Digital 5.1 audio throughout.
"Am I making myself CLEAR?? Oh, hang on, I am Clear."
Audio Commentary: Director David Ellis and producer Craig Perry, along with the two screenwriters, deliver an entertaining and informative commentary track which leans heavily on the finer points of staging a film like this one. With all four of the participants’ voices panned dead (!) centre, it’s a bit tricky at times to figure out who’s speaking. The solution is to turn on the supplied commentary subtitles, which tell you who’s saying what.
Bits and Pieces - Bringing Death to Life: A 30-minute featurette which quickly goes through the history of the splatter genre before getting into a blow-by-blow account of how the various stunts and death scenes in the film were achieved. Very entertaining viewing, though a bit piecemeal - possibly because the individual segments were intended to be accessed individually on the US disc. No matter - this is well worth the time.
Deleted/Alternate Scenes: Ten minutes of outtakes, comprising five deleted scenes which are all offered with superb 16:9 enhanced picture quality (almost as good as the main feature itself) and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. No cruddy rescued-from-VHS outtakes here; obviously the filmmakers had DVD firmly in mind when they put these scenes aside. All are available with or without a commentary.
Music Videos: Two clips - Middle of Nowhere by Blank Theory (think Linkin Park) and Seven Days a Week by The Sounds (Transvision Vamp meets Blondie!) Curiously, while both these bands have songs in the movie, these songs aren’t the ones. Both clips are full-screen 4:3 with stereo sound.
Trailers: Theatrical trailers for both the first film and this one, beautifully transferred in 4:3 full-frame with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. There are spoilers aplenty in both, so don’t watch them until you’ve seen the movies.
This in-car drinking fountain perhaps needs a little refinement.
The Terror Gauge: An amusing little 14-minute featurette in which three “normal” people are subjected to the movie while hooked up to a bevy of medical monitoring equipment. “Make yourselves comfortable, because I’m going to try to make you uncomfortable,” says Dr Victoria Ibric. And she does. The verdict? The movie’s a feast for the senses. No surprise there. Offered with 16:9 video and flagged Dolby Surround audio.
Cheating Death - Beyond and Back: An 18-minute mini-documentary that features people recounting their own real-life flirtations with death. Nothing to do with the movie, but quite interesting nonetheless. 16:9 video and flagged Dolby Surround audio.
Choose Your Fate: Pick a card, any card, and get an instant foretelling of your fate. Your hapless reviewer was told “You are hot” (oh, thanks!), followed by “You get a face massage” - but just when a pleasant pattern was starting to emerge, up came “Death by embarrassment on a reality TV show.” Ah well, it beats disembowelment. The audio that accompanies each card is, remarkably, in Dolby Digital 5.1.
Fact Track: We love these. The most simple (and probably least expensive to produce) of extra features, fact tracks - a subtitle stream containing of-the-moment trivia about what you’re watching while viewing the film - are usually greatly entertaining and informative, and this one (which happily spits out spurious non-movie trivia prompted by events on screen) is no exception.
A flamboyant, funny, vicious, violent, gory grim reaper movie which delivers exactly what its intended audience wants - and delivers it with cleverness and a playful exuberance - Final Destination 2 is far less concerned with story and substance than the first film in the franchise. Instead, it goes for the instant-thrills jugular with a vengeance, always throwing a knowing wink at the audience it’s playing with.
Roadshow’s DVD mirrors the content of the New Line product, offering video and audio transfer of the feature that’s to die for (boom boom) and a decent batch of extra features that are well worth exploring.