FINAL DESTINATION 2
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 films 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. Elliss 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 ones actions screw up ones 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).