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Warner / 90 Minutes / 2003 / Rated R / Street Date: August 30, 2011
A slasher flick without the slasher, Final Destination 2 is the MouseTrap of horror movies. Even more skeletal than the original film, it strips away all pretense and any existential musings on life and death and exists solely as a gross-out thrill show. Its raison d'etre is the variety of ingenious ways the script can come up with to dispatch its victims, and the lack of a Freddy or a Jason is brilliant, because not only does the production not have to pay an actor to fill the role, but it can focus solely on what the audience really wants to see, which is a bunch of obnoxious people getting killed off one by one in a variety of gruesome and outlandish ways. The moral of the story is simple and inevitable. Death, it seems, is something that always happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
It is two years after the events of the previous Final Destination, and Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) has suddenly developed the power of premonition (why now, of course, is never explained). See foresees a terrible car accident and awakes from her trance just in time to save some (but not all) of the victims. Of course, this pisses Death off, and the grim reaper always keeps his end of the bargain. Meanwhile, the sole survivor from the last gruesome massacre, Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) has locked herself away in a mental asylum to hide from Death's wrath (of course why Death can't just cause an earthquake remains a mystery). Will Kimberly be able to convince Clear to once again confront Death and save what's left of the ever-dwindling pack of survivors?
Just like the previous Final Destination, this one is full of enormous plot holes. You would think Death could just cause heart attacks or strike people down with a bolt of lightning, but no, the contraptions he/she/it comes up with are so elaborate and noisy you wonder how anything gets done on time and within budget down there in hell. Also peculiar is that none of the characters seem to question their own responsibility to the rest of the world. By preventing the opening car crash, for example, Kimberly then causes a whole slew of other people to die instead, not to mention all the destruction and dismemberment that follows as she tries to save her own skin. Perhaps she should just commit suicide and save us all the trouble?
With such questions ignored, at least the flick looks slick. Long one of Hollywood's most accomplished second unit directors, first-time helmer David R. Ellis doesn't so much direct as stage accidents, letting the actors recite incidental dialogue in-between. But these are good-looking victims and highly suspenseful accidents, and the cast try their best to give their wafer-thin characters at least a glimmer of humanity. Just stupid enough to laugh at and pathetic enough to feel sorry for, the minimal character setup makes it both fun and queasy to watch them get splattered one by one. As body count goes, this is as good and gory as it gets.
It is fair to say Final Destination 2 doesn't mean anything, and probably was never conceived to have any such aspirations. But that is a bit of a disappointment, because in its own meager way at least the first film tried to explore vaguely existential concepts within the confines of a populist teen horror thriller. Here, we get a film filled with nothing but violent, ridiculous death sequences, which are a lot of fun, but it could have and should have been more. Even the title is nonsensical - if the last destination was so final, how can there be a second one? But we don't go to horror movies for logic these days, just jolts and gore. And on that level, Final Destination 2 delivers in spades.