Final Destination 2 (thankfully without a witless subtitle) can be summed up in the words of a buddy of mine, who came with me to the showing. After one of the many hilariously impressive kills he called over the whoops, screams, and applause, "It's a simple formula, but it works." I can only add, "It is" and "Boy, does it ever." In all honesty I haven't laughed harder since Jackass: The Movie.
To start with, knowledge of the first Final Destination is not necessary and if my cloudy memories of the original can be trusted it might even be better if you didn't see it. Final Destination 2 comes right off the shelf of "first sequel in a burgeoning franchise," but unlike the unforgettably bad A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge and the incomprehensibly revisionist Friday the 13th 2, FD2 does it right.
In case you missed it or didn't hear, the original Final Destination had Devon Sawa glimpsing visions that saved a few students from an airplane disaster. This screwed up "Death's master plan" and so Death sought to fix his mistake by killing the survivors through seeming accidents. For some reason, Death can't just hand out tumors and random heart arrhythmias but must work through complex worst-case scenarios.
The new picture starts with a cable talk show (a la Art
Bell) discussing the year anniversary of the strange happenings
from the first picture while a girl (A.J. Cook) with seemingly
no relation to those events, aside from a morbid curiosity,
prepares for a road trip with friends.
This nicely establishes people who know about the previous
events while still giving other people the right to be skeptical.
What comes next is an over-long character introduction sequence
where we meet a gaggle of cannon fodder that the girl saves
from an insanely intricate freeway pile-up.
Once again the unseen death stalks the lucky non-stiffs with the insane creativity of a 15-year-old Fangoria subscriber off his meds. The first kill is entertaining but it happened to the only character I liked from the get-go (not counting ultra-hot Keegan Conner Tracy; her character was a bitch but she's ultra-hot). This may have been the filmmakers' plan from the get-go, for in killing the only likable character the picture is free to kill off anyone and everyone in more and more gruesome ways.
According to the laws of the sequel, the new victims must
seek the help of the only surviving target from the previous
film. Said previous target can only be found in one of two
places, academia or the loony bin. This time it's the latter
where we find Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) who warns of the powers
of visions and any "in your face irony kind of thing." Strong
words from a chick with an adjective for her first name and
a noun for her last. I know that the filmmakers intended the
beer truck driver drinking on the job to be that very irony,
but I couldn't help bristling at our hero's disgust at his
behavior while her friends smoked pot in her car.
Final Destination 2 isn't about life lessons. Like a porno, it's just a thinly veiled excuse to string together about eight money shots and kill enough time in between to clock in around 90 minutes. Fairly quickly the picture settles in to the previously mentioned working formula. An obvious method of dispatch is thwarted one or two times until a grisly surprise kill blind-sides the audience. Even the film as a whole uses this formula.
The kills themselves are wonderfully 'R' rated, teetering somewhere between Tom Savini's demo reel and Wile E Coyote's greatest hits. On the subject of the 'R' rating I must also applaud a completely unjustified non-sexualized breast shot early in the picture. Final Destination 2 knows what it is and doesn't try to be anything more. It's horribly silly with a totally straight face. When an automatic door in a hospital malfunctions it spits sparks as if to scream, "DANGER!" And at the height of silliness is a visual I won't ruin by describing here but when you see it you will forever fear this man every time an elevator door opens.
The capable cast seems to get the joke or maybe even better yet, not get the joke, and their earnestness makes it all the more fun. Genre stalwart Tony Todd hams it up in a brief appearance and the previously mentioned Keegan Conner Tracy is super-ultra hot. Much of the rest of the cast seems to consist of the leftovers from the original Final Destination cattle call as there is a Kerr Smith type and two, count them two, Devon Sawa types.
Final Destination 2 boasts the two-fold entertainment
that classic slasher pictures have always offered. On a date,
the gruesome kills require viewing from one of the loveseat
rows for the safety of a cowering partner. Without a date,
a group of friends can have a blast and some solid laughs.
A good time to be had by all.