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Final Destination

Final Destination

Theatrical release poster
Directed by James Wong
Produced by Glen Morgan
Warren Zide
Craig Perry
Screenplay by James Wong
Glen Morgan
Jeffrey Reddick
Story by Jeffrey Reddick
Starring Devon Sawa
Ali Larter
Kerr Smith
Tony Todd
Music by Shirley Walker
Cinematography Robert McLachlan
Editing by James Coblentz
Studio Zide/Perry Productions
Hard Eight Pictures
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) March 17, 2000
Running time 98 minutes
Country Canada
United States
Language English
Budget $23 million
Box office $112,880,294

Final Destination is a 1999 supernatural slasher film written and directed by James Wong. The film was co-written by Glen Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick, both of them having previously worked with Wong in the TV series The X-Files. The film stars Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith and Tony Todd. Sawa portrays a teenager who "cheats death" after having a premonition of himself and others perishing in a plane explosion and uses it by saving himself and a handful of other passengers, but is continued to be stalked by Death by claiming back their lives which should have been lost in the plane.

The film was based on a spec script for The X-Files written by Reddick. After his co-writers admired his screenplay, writing partners Wong and Morgan were interested and agreed to direct a feature film with it, marking Wong's film directing debut.

Filming took place in Alabama and Vancouver. Final Destination was released on March 17, 2000, and was a financial success, making $10 million on its opening weekend. The film received mixed reviews from critics; where negative reviews classified the film as "dramatically flat" and "aimed at the teen dating crowd", while positive reviews praised the film for "generating a respectable amount of suspense", "playful and energized enough to keep an audience guessing" and as "an unexpectedly alert teen-scream disaster chiller". It received the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Sawa's performance. The film's success spawned three sequels composed of Final Destination 2 (2003), Final Destination 3 (2006), The Final Destination (2009) and one prequel Final Destination 5 (2011), all distributed by New Line Cinema; as well as a series of novels and comic books published by Black Flame and Zenescope Entertainment respectively.


On September 25th, 1999, Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) boards Volée Airlines Flight 180 with his fellow classsmates and teachers for their senior trip to Paris. Before the plane leaves the gate at JFK Airport, Alex has a premonition that the flight will explode on take off, killing everyone on board. When events from his vision begin to express themselves in reality, he panics and attempts to stop the flight before its departure. The resulting commotion leads to a handful of passengers being left behind at the airport gate, including Alex, orphan Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), Alex's best friend Tod Waggner (Chad Donella), teacher Valerie Lewton (Kristen Cloke), Alex's rival Carter Horton (Kerr Smith), Carter's girlfriend Terry Chaney (Amanda Detmer) and student Billy Hitchcock (Seann William Scott). After they are all forced off the plane, none of the passengers believe what Alex says until the airliner takes off and explodes in mid-air, killing everyone left on it. The survivors are devastated, and two FBI agents (Daniel Roebuck and Roger Guenveur Smith) interview the people who were removed from the plane, and are particularly interested with Alex's vision.

One month later, Tod accidentally hangs himself in his shower, and his death is deemed as being an attention whoring fanboy. When Alex and Clear go to see his body, mysterious mortician William Bludworth (Tony Todd) tells them that Death is intervening to kill everyone who was meant to die on the plane. Terry falls victim the next day when she is hit by a speeding bus. After watching a news report detailing the cause of the explosion of Flight 180, Alex comes to the conclusion that Death is killing the survivors in the order they would have died in the explosion on the plane. Using information he has collected, he determines that Ms. Lewton is next on Death's list. He rushes to her house but arrives too late to save her from being impaled by a falling kitchen knife during a house fire.

Alex contacts the remaining survivors, Billy, Clear, and Carter, to tell them what he thinks is happening. As they are riding in Carter's car, Alex has another vision of a train and a seatbelt ripping. Frustrated with not having control over his death, Carter attempts to drive head-on into a fuel tanker; however, the car seemingly by itself turns and avoids the collision. Carter then stops his car on a train crossing, wanting to kill himself before Death does. At the last moment however, he changes his mind but cannot exit his car as his seatbelt is jammed. Alex rushes to help Carter from his car, and as he foresaw, Carter's seat-belt rips and he is freed a second before the train destroys the car, thus cheating Death. Seconds later, Billy's head is cut in half by a slab of car wreckage whipped up by a metal chain dangling from the train carriage.

Alex believes that because he intervened in Carter's death, he has saved Carter, and that Death skipped Carter and went on to Billy. Later he remembers in his original premonition he was asked to switch seats on the plane, and realizes that Clear is actually the next to die. Alex rushes to Clear's house to find her trapped in her car surrounded by live wires. She is unable to escape her vehicle, which is about to explode, as a damaged electrical cable is precariously flipping around outside. Alex saves her by picking up the cable but is incapacitated by electric shock. Clear and the police rush to Alex's aid as the screen fades to white.

Six months later, Alex, Clear, and Carter arrive in Paris talking about their experience about Flight 180 and how they defeated Death. Shortly thereafter, a freak incident involving a bus causes a giant neon sign to swing off a hinge down towards Alex. Carter manages to intervene and pushes Alex to the ground, with the sign swinging down past the two of them. Carter then stands up and turns to Alex who is still on the ground. As Carter asks Alex who is next on Death's list, the neon sign swings back on its momentum towards where Carter is standing. There is a loud whack, and Alex and Clear are left as the last two survivors of Flight 180.


"The main thing they wanted about Death coming to get people is that you never saw a kind of a Michael Myers figure. You never saw a killer. And they liked that idea and they said "Okay. Go write it"."
— Glen Morgan on how he accepted the writing privileges for the film.


The development for the film and its respective franchise all began after Jeffrey Reddick took notice of the TWA Flight 800 explosion and its investigation, which gathered much attention to the media. Afterwards, Reddick decided to write a screenplay about it for the next episode of The X-Files. The script was ignored by the series creator Chris Carter and his co-writers, except for screenplay writing partners James Wong and Glen Morgan, who gained interest in it. Both writers were amazed by the brilliant idea of Reddick, and they were both willing to make it into a film. Producers Craig Perry and Warren Zide from Zide/Perry Productions also helped for the film's budget, both similarly fascinated about the idea of an invisible force executing its victims. Perry, a fan of The X-Files, claimed that he "responded to Wong and Morgan's work for one specific reason: dread." New Line Cinema accepted distributing rights for the film, after Reddick came to them personally.



With Final Destination cast, filming took place in Long Island for the plane scene and Vancouver Island for the additional scenes. Unfortunately, the cast were filming other projects during production, so filming schedules had to be moved again and again for all cast to appear. Sawa restrained his appearance in The Guilty during production, and even commented that "[he] had to share a trailer with Bill Pullman because it was bigger and would make him look more famous." Smith, who was a regular in Dawson's Creek, had to hold episodes for the film.

According to Detmer, her death scene (being rammed by a speeding bus) was filmed first because "it was easy but much anticipated". All death scenes were filmed using lifecasts of the actual actors. The death scenes, the memorial, the forest scene and the scenes in Paris were all filmed in Vancouver. Additional scenes were filmed in Toronto and San Francisco. For the airport, the crew used Vancouver International Airport to stand in for John F. Kennedy International Airport, which is the airport mentioned in the film.


The plane scene where passengers die in mid-air was done inside an extremely large sound stage. The three-ton machine was automatically operated for movement. It could be tilted sideways from 30-degrees to 60-degrees down to make the scenes appear as an actual plane was about to derail. Sawa added that "the screams of the cast inside the gimble made it look more real".

However, a miniature model of the plane was created for the explosion scene. The model was one of the most detailed miniature scenes in film. It was about 10 feet long and 7 feet wide, while the landing gear was made from all machined metals. According to visual effects supervisor Ariel Velasco Shaw, they had to launch the miniature about 40 feet up in the air to make it look like a real Boeing 747 exploded into a fireball, since if blowing up a 4 feet plane, the explosion must be a minimum of 8 feet. To film the explosion in detailed format, the crew used three cameras running 120 frames a second and one camera running 300 frames a second (since if filming in real-life camera, the crescendo of the explosion would not be filmed in particular order).

The train scene (where Carter's car is smashed by the train) was one of the hardest scenes to shoot. The car used for the crash was a replica of the original, and it was already severed in half before filming. According to special effects supervisor Terry Sonderhoff, they had to make sure that there was no real sheet metal in the car for the safety of the actors.

Finally for the death scenes, the crew used several lifecasts of the actors and chocolate syrup as fake blood. Creating the Rube Goldberg effect for Ms. Lewton's death scene was defined as the most difficult to plan according to the crew, Perry stating that "it was very hard to generate an atmosphere of dread to create suspense out of scenes that are common."


Box office

The film premiered in 2,587 theaters across the United States and Canada on March 17, 2000, earning $10,015,822 on its opening weekend with an average of $3,871 per theater. Final Destination placed at #3 in the US box office on its opening weekend, behind biography film Erin Brockovich and the science fiction film Mission to Mars. The film remained at #3 on the next weekend before dropping to #7 on its third weekend. The film continuously dropped on the next weekends until it was removed from the top-ten list on its eight weekend. The film lasted in theaters for 22 weekends, its last screening airing in 105 theaters and grossing $52,675, placing in #56. Final Destination grossed $53,331,147 in the United States and Canada on its total screening and earned $59,549,147 in other territories, having an overall gross of $112,880,294 internationally.

Home media

The film was released on DVD on September 26, 2000 in the USA and Canada. The DVD includes a bonus feature including an interview with the cast and crew, a behind-the-scenes footage of the film, and a 10-minute footage of an alternate ending of the film. In the alternate ending, Alex dies after rescuing Clear from the livewires; Clear bears a baby which she named Alex (named after his father); and Clear and Carter became the only ones surviving the film.


Critical response

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports 30% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based on 86 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6/10, and a generally negative 32% approval rating from "top" critics based on 22 reviews. The site's consensus of opinion is that "Despite a panel of X-Files' alums at the helm and a promising premise, flighty performances and poor execution keep Final Destination from ever taking off." At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film holds a mixed/average score of 36 based on 28 reviews, while IGN gives the film 2.5 stars out of 5.

"Providing itself some laughs and scares, Final Destination is a flawed but often entertaining teen horror flick."

— Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle reacting negatively to the film's premise."

On the negative side, Stephen Holden of The New York Times said that "even by the crude standards of teenage horror, Final Destination is dramatically flat." Lou Lumenick of New York Post commented that "the film's premise quickly deteriorates into a silly, badly acted slasher movie -- minus the slasher." Gemma Files of Film.com noted that "you'll definitely feel cheated -- especially when you keep on finding yourself thinking how Mulder and Scully would have handled it all." Kevin Maynard of Mr. Showbiz described the film as "crude and witless" while Rita Kempley of Washington Post told that "your own final destination just might be the box office, to demand your money back." Robert Cashill of Newsweek remarked that the film "should be in video store bins" while Sean Axmaker of Seattle Post-Intelligencer said the film was "so grim and humorless that the first half almost sinks into silliness." Jay Carr of Boston Globe commented that it "starts by cheating death and ends by cheating us." Phoebe Flowers of Miami Herald described the film as "stoops well below substituting style for substance" whereas John Hartl of Film.com noted that "you'll laugh, but you'll hate yourself by the time you're out of the theater." Luke Thompson of Dallas Observer found it "a waste of a decent premise" whilst Ernest Hardy of L.A. Weekly stated that the film "fails because it takes itself both too seriously and not seriously enough." Although Barbara Shulgasser of Chicago Tribune told that it "met the low standards of a mediocre TV movie", Desmond Ryan of Philadelphia Inquirer commented that it was "as full of terrible acting as it is devoid of suspense." Both Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today and Walter Addiego of San Francisco Examiner thought it was "stupid, silly and gory". Sean Means of Film.com said that "it's hard to root against Death when the people involved are never brought to life in the first place" whereas Lisa Alspector of Chicago Reader described the film as "disturbing--if less sophisticated than the best SF (science fiction)-horror TV."

On the other hand, the film gathered positive reviews from top critics. Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times enjoyed the film and gave it three out of four stars, stating that "Final Destination will no doubt be a hit and inspire the obligatory sequels. Like the original "Scream", this movie is too good to be the end of the road. I have visions of my own." Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle praised the film, claiming "[it] was playful and energized enough to keep an audience guessing." Joe Leydon of Variety acclaimed the film, saying "[it] generates a respectable amount of suspense and takes a few unexpected turns while covering familiar territory." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly admired the film, stating that the film was "an unexpectedly alert teen-scream disaster chiller." Jami Bernard of New York Daily News mentioned the film as a "mediocre fright fest" while Kevin Thomas of Los Angeles Times applauded the film, saying it was "a terrific theatrical feature debut for television veterans Glen Morgan and James Wong." Chris Kaltenbach of Baltimore Sun found the film "fitfully thrilling" while Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide defined the film as "serviceable enough, if you come to it with sufficiently modest expectations."

"Devon Sawa, a rising star who put his physical comedy skills to good use in 1999's underseen slasher-comedy, "Idle Hands," is even more of a charismatic presence here. The conflicting emotions he feels for his survival, which he comes to believe he wasn't meant to do, as well as the loss of the other passengers, is superbly and subtly acted on his part. One scene, in which he is watching a news report on the crash and slowly begins to break down is especially realistic and powerful."

— Dustin Putman of TheMovieBoy.com acclaiming Sawa's performance as Alex in the film.

Despite the film's general mixed reception, critics praised Sawa's performance as Alex. Holden of the New York Times commented that "The disaster and Alex's premonitions set up a heavy-handed fable about death and teenage illusions of invulnerability.", while Bernard of the New York Daily News noted that "Sawa is solid as an Everyteen saddled with a rare and unwelcome gift". David Nusair of Reel Film Reviews remarked "Sawa's personable turn as the hero is matched by a uniformly effective supporting cast rife with familiar faces (i.e. Seann William Scott, Brendan Fehr, Tony Todd, etc)..." while Leydon of Variety pointed out that "Sawa is credible as the second-sighted Alex --- unlike many other actors cast a teen protagonists, he actually looks like he might still be attending high school --- but the supporting players are an uneven bunch." LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle praised Sawa and Ali Larter's pairing, observing that "Larter and Sawa, who becomes more scruffy and wild-eyed as the film progresses, make an appealing pair."


The film had a major impact in the horror film audience, earning itself the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film in 2000. Devon Sawa, the actor of protagonist Alex Browning, also won the Saturn Award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor on the same year. Ali Larter, the actress of Alex' love interest Clear Rivers, won the Young Hollywood Award for a Breakthrough Performance by a Female. In the 2001 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, both Sawa and Larter were nominated for Favorite Actor in Horror (Internet Only) and Favorite Actress in Horror (Internet Only) correspondingly; both actors lost the awards to Scream 3 actors David Arquette and Neve Campbell respectively.Additionally, cinematographer Robert McLachlan was nominated for Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature in the Canadian Society of Cinematographers Awards in 2001, but lost it to Pierre Gill for his work in The Art of War.


Final Destination: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by Shirley Walker
Released 17 March 2000
Recorded 17 March 2000
Genre Soundtrack
Film score
Label Weendigo Records
Final Destination: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
No. Title Length
1. "Main Title" 3:01
2. "Night Wind" 1:05
3. "September 25, 9:25 PM" 0:46
4. "Volee Airlines" 0:29
5. "Flight 180" 0:54
6. "Bad Dream, Part 1" 1:27
7. "Bad Dream, Part 2" 0:39
8. "Out of Flight 180" 1:00
9. "The Crash" 0:37
10. "Aftermath" 1:50
11. "Solitude" 1:30
12. "The First" 3:14
13. "Fuselage" 0:11
14. "Todd's Death" 1:53
15. "Too Late" 1:19
16. "Commemoration" 1:20
17. "The Morgue" 2:36
18. "Signs" 0:45
19. "The Drawing" 0:57
20. "Miss Lewton" 2:18
21. "Fire Signs" 0:12
22. "No Luck" 0:25
23. "Remember" 1:04
24. "The Train Accident" 1:52
25. "Preparation" 3:20
26. "Clears Home" 0:36
27. "Alex's Revelation" 8:10
28. "Six Months Later" 0:43
29. "Non-Stop Ending" 1:39
30. "End Credits" 2:01


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