"Final Destination" begins with an unusually fresh and amply terrifying scene in which a nondescript horror movie prototeen (Devon Sawa) has a vivid, realistic, and special effects-laden premonition that the 747 he's just boarded will explode on take-off.
In his vision, the cabin shakes violently, overhead compartments blast open and passengers scramble desperately for dropping air masks just before a fireball rips down the aisles. To the audience, it feels like the theater seats have been transported onboard the quaking airliner.
Snapped awake in a sweat from his incubus, Sawa ("Idle Hands") flips out and bolts for the exit. When his friends try to calm him down, they all get dragged off the plane and left in the terminal where they watch helplessly as -- you guessed it -- the jet goes kaplewy in mid-air, killing everyone aboard.
Death apparently doesn't take kindly to being thwarted, so in a "Twilight Zone"-inspired twist the seemingly lucky survivors are soon meeting gruesome ends, stalked by some unseen force determined to finish off those whom fate had fingered for airborne demise.
But just as the story starts to level off at an unexpectedly ambitious altitude, co-writer and rookie director James Wong crashes the picture into a twisted wreck of wasted potential, dimwitted plot devices (killer toilet water!) and cookie-cutter horror movie clichés.
After a memorial scene to establish that classmates are creeped out by Sawa's seemingly psychic abilities, the survivors -- including babelicious brain Ali Larter (the whipped cream girl from "Varsity Blues"), cocky jock Kerr Smith ("Dawson's Creek") and a few expendable others -- start getting pruned in mundane splatter episodes grafted from a dozen equally dull scare flick predecessors.
Frustratingly brief flashes of droll inspiration pepper "Final Destination." Each victim hears John Denver music just before they get whacked, for instance, and horror icon Tony Todd, from the cheezeball "Candyman" flicks, has a cameo as a soothsaying mortician.
But Wong, who cut his teeth on "X-Files" episodes and obviously went into this picture aiming for the same kind of spine-tingling eerieness, lets the movie become more moronic with each passing death until all genuine frights have given way to nonsensical psychobabble and flying kitchen knives.
Had he clung to the first reel's otherworldly atmosphere and forced himself and his co-writers Glen Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick to conceive appealing, intelligent kids instead of resorting to simpleton stock characters, this movie might have transcended its genre. But save that spectacularly disquieting crash sequence that launches the movie, what they ended up with is typical, tiresome, forgettable crap.
Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Friday 17th March 2000
Box Office Worldwide: $53.3M
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Production compaines: New Line Cinema, Zide-Perry Productions
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 31 Rotten: 62
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: James Wong
Starring: Devon Sawa as Alex Chance Browning, Ali Larter as Clear Rivers, Kerr Smith as Carter Horton, Tony Todd as William Bludworth, Seann William Scott as Billy Hitchcock, Kristen Cloke as Valerie Lewton, Chad Donella as Tod Waggner, Amanda Detmer as Terry Chaney, Brendan Fehr as George Waggner, Daniel Roebuck as Agent Weine, Roger Guenveur Smith as Agent Schreck, Lisa Marie Caruk as Christa Marsh
Also starring: Roger Guenver Smith
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