As a group of high school students boards a transatlantic flight, one nervous boy surveys his fellow passengers (bright-eyed schoolmates, a wailing newborn, a brain-damaged man trailing an oxygen canister) and observes that only “a really fucked-up God” would let this particular flight of innocents crash. Just after takeoff, he finds out how twisted God and fate and first-time screenwriters can be: The plane explodes, and everybody on board dies. Saved from the crash, but not from the horror that follows, are one teacher (Kristen Cloke) and six students, including Alex (Devon Sawa), whose preflight freakout got the group ejected from the doomed plane.
Alex, who has the sweaty, haunted look of the undermedicated, suffered a gruesome premonition of the tragedy, and in the movie’s skillfully staged, sick-funny opening scenes, it’s not clear whether he’s the subconscious author of his destiny or its helpless victim. But like I Know What You Did Last Summer, whose opening act was a delicious indulgence in adolescent fantasies of self-blame and punishment, Final Destination quickly descends into mayhem. Death can’t be cheated; like the film’s intended audience, it demands a blood offering. Conveniently, Alex and his friends all live in badly wired houses filled with deadly appliances, power tools, and exposed nails. Final Destination is one creepy idea played out with numbing literal-mindedness. Scenes seem to have been deleted haphazardly, and the indicatively named characters (Tod, Shreck, Val Lewton—consult your German/English dictionary or your local video store) barely register. Even a lively appearance by Tony “Candyman” Todd as the town mortician feels completely random: Fate, like this movie, has a savage but brilliant casting director.