Director – David R. Ellis, Screenplay – Eric Bress & J. Mackye Gruber, Story – Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber & Jeffrey Riddick, Producers – Craig Perry & Warren Zide, Photography – Gary Capo, Music – Shirley Walker, Visual Effects Supervisor – Joseph B. Bauer, Visual Effects – Cinema Production Services, Digital Dimension & Pixel Magic, Special Effects Supervisor – Alex Burdett, Makeup Effects – WCT Productions (Supervisor – Bill Terzakis), Production Design – Michael S. Bolton. Production Company – New Line Cinema
A.J. Cook (Kimberly Corman), Michael Landes (Officer Burke), Ali Larter (Clear Rivers), Jonathan Cherry (Rory), Justina Machado (Isabelle Hudson), T.C. Carson (Eugene), Lynda Boyd (Nora Carpenter), Keegan Connor Tracy (Kat), David Paetkau (Evan Lewis), James Kirk (Tim Carpenter), Tony Todd (Bludworth), Andrew Airlie (Mr Corman)
Kimberly Corman is departing on holiday with three friends when she has a premonition that there will be a terrible accident on the highway, resulting in the deaths of her, her friends and the people in several other vehicles. She turns off in the middle of traffic and in so doing prevents herself and the others from being killed. Moments later, her friends are killed as the SUV is hit by a truck. She realizes that it is the one-year anniversary of the crash of Flight 180. She begins to believe that in having disrupted Death’s design with her premonition, fate now has a series of strange and bizarre deaths in store for the seven survivors of the highway crash.
Final Destination (2000), with its story of teens surviving an air disaster via a premonition and then being killed as an irked fate arranges improbably contrived circumstances, was a modest box-office hit. Final Destination 2 is the inevitable sequel. Final Destination 2 is stuck with an unenviable problem in that Final Destination was not a film that easily lent itself to a sequel. It makes a valiant effort nevertheless. The sequel brings back Ali Larter, the only survivor from the original, and a thoroughly overacting Tony Todd, as well as sets the events on the one year anniversary of the original and comes up with the notion that the original precognitive event had a ripple effect that disrupted the predestined deaths of the new cast of characters.
In some ways, Final Destination 2 is a better film than the original. It makes a decent effort to dispense with the teen horror label and write in a group of characters that are evenly spread across all ages, socio-economic groups and racial divides. There is even a doper character who is refreshingly made to seem a decent, ordinary guy and has a dying speech asking the heroine to hide his dope and porn so as not to upset his family.
In the first film, the various death set-pieces ended up being contrived to the point of absurdity. This film’s saving grace is director David R. Ellis. David R. Ellis is a former stuntman and second-unit director and has an impressive curriculum vitae that stretches all the way back to the 1970s and contains some big-name films. Ellis is clearly someone with a promising genre career ahead of him, despite his having made an inauspicious debut with Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco (1996). Ellis instead has fun with the set-pieces, leaving audiences to expect one thing and then coming at them from a completely unexpected direction. Final Destination 2 is certainly a lot more gory than the first film, with some highly entertaining set-pieces where one character gets a fire escape ladder impaled in their eyeball; another has their head caught in an elevator door and decapitated; an Omen (1976)-like sequence where a kid is splattered by a falling plate of glass; and especially one set-piece where a character is sliced into sections by a flying piece of wire fencing. David R. Ellis’s background comes to the fore in the opening highway pileup, which is a dazzling set-piece with people being splattered amid multiple vehicle collisions.
Where Final Destination 2 tends to fall down is the plot. The first film stretched the premise adequately for the story it had to tell but this time the cracks are starting to become apparent. You keep asking why some people are given precognitive visions that can screw destiny up. If the future can be foretold then the future is surely already fixed, so how could one’s actions screw up one’s predetermined death? Does the notion of Death having a list and an order of people dying refer to a literal embodiment of Death, a la The Grim Reaper, or a vague undefined force? What does cheating Death mean? If all deaths are foretold, who or what gives some people insights that can screw up the plan? The script adds some ill-explained nonsense about the ripple effect and an arbitrarily arrived-at ending where a new life supposedly breaks the pattern (and then offers an incredibly vague interpretation of what that means). The film also contradicts itself by on one hand talking about the intriguing notion of a ripple effect from the original earmarking these characters as new victims but then also having another freak precognition starting a new batch of deaths all over again. A script that addressed these questions would be far more interesting a one than this, which has been intended with no purpose other than to provide a conveyor belt of novelty deaths.
The original film named its characters after actors and directors from the 1920s and 30s. The idea was old hat but you had to admire a film that tipped its fannish enthusiasm to the extent of going all the way back to the works of Tod Browning and German silent cinema. Final Destination 2, clearly written by genre amateurs, half-heartedly gives us a heroine named Kimberly Corman and a Mrs Carpenter, before the writers lose interest in this altogether.
David R. Ellis next went onto direct Cellular (2004), Snakes on a Plane (2006), Asylum (2008), The Final Destination and Shark Night 3D (2011). Screenwriters Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber next went on to write and direct the time travel film The Butterfly Effect (2004).