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Final Destination

Final Destination may look like a typically brainless teen horror film, but don't be deceived. It's more interesting, if just as frustrating: a teen horror film with brains but no ambition. The team behind it, co-writer/director James Wong and co-writer/co-producer Glenn Morgan, also worked on the early seasons of The X-Files, and it shows. Final Destination's best moments play like a good (i.e., not recent) episode of the series Wong and Morgan helped get off the ground. In some ways, it's scarier, too; without The X-Files' lead characters, there's no guarantee that anyone in the film is safe. But there's also no reason to care. Last seen fending off a supernatural threat in Idle Hands, Devon Sawa stars as a superstitious teen who, after receiving a vision of impending disaster, disembarks a Paris-bound plane filled with his classmates and watches in horror as it erupts into flames. Soon his fellow survivors fall prey to mysterious accidents, causing Sawa to deduct—with the help of a ghoulish expositional cameo from Candyman star Tony Todd—that Death, unhappy at being cheated, now seeks to reclaim their lives. Death, however, can apparently only do so through a series of elaborate, Rube Goldberg-style setpieces, each staged with the care of a sadist and executed with the skill of an engineer. Technically, it's an impressive film: Wong and Morgan create an air of genuine, if nearly comic, dread early on and produce jolts throughout, with each death scene outdoing the last. Ultimately, though, their best efforts are undone by the film's near-clinical approach to the material. Destination never presents even the pretense of having characters worth caring about, and its humorlessness—a tasteless but amusing running gag about John Denver aside—only makes watching the series of lovingly filmed death scenes that much more uncomfortable. Wong and Morgan clearly love the genre (for evidence, look no further than the character names in the credits), but they seem so caught up in the craft of making a horror film that they're incapable of bringing to the screen anything but craft, delivering shocks without scares and revulsion without anxiety. (Note to filmmakers: If you must do last-minute re-shoots, try to match all your characters' hair styles and colors to those in the rest of the film.)


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