Have you ever wondered what would happen if you tried to cheat death? Would there be any consequences or if you could survive it at all? The world of the Final Destination series follows characters that have premonitions that they are going to die, and they interrupt Death’s plan by surviving it. The characters then learn that there is no way you can cheat Death, it will always come back with a vengeance. This franchise is full of comedy, horror, and ridiculous death scenes that the subgenre has a unique place in the film world. Final Destination was first released in 2000 and the series ended with a prequel released in 2011 that explains the loop of death sequences or Death’s design that ultimately started in the first film. This design is what sets Death’s vengeance to bring horror and fear into the characters’ lives by elaborate accidents.
The franchise includes five films with new characters, situations and follows a formula that was regurgitated for a decade. In the first Final Destination film, Alex (Devon Sawa) and his classmates are on board a flight to Paris when he has a premonition that the plane will explode in mid-air. In a panic, Alex tries to convince his classmates that the plane will explode and he gets kicked off the plane with his friends and a teacher. As they are told to wait until the next flight to Paris boards, Alex and his friends watch as the plane explodes. After they survive this tragedy, the survivors start dying in a series of horrific deaths. One of the survivors, Clear (Ali Larter) and Alex start to suspect that an ominous being might be after them, they meet the mortician, William Bludworth (Tony Todd) who explains to them that what’s happening to them is part of Death’s design.
Final Destination 2 is set a year after the plane crash, and Kimberly and her friends are driving in a car when she has a premonition that resulted in a pile-up of accidents and kills people on the highway. She blocks the cars and prevents the people from getting killed, but soon after she watches the accident occur. Much like the previous film, Death looms behind the shadows and starts to take out the characters one by one. Kimberly visits Clear, who submitted herself into a psychiatric ward to understand what is happening to them. Kimberly, Clear and state trooper Thomas (Michael Landers) visit the morgue and meet William, who reveals that only new life can defeat Death. To stop the survivors from dying, the trio gathers the remaining survivors at Thomas’ apartment and searches for a pregnant woman named Isabelle (Justina Machado). It is revealed that the deaths of Flight 180 indirectly saved their lives. One by one, Clear and the survivors die in horrific deaths, and Kimberly breaks Death’s design by drowning purposely and being brought back to life.
In the third instalment of the series, Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is at an amusement park with her friends. They board a roller coaster called Devil’s Flight when Wendy has a premonition that is going to crash and kill everyone on it. Once again, she manages to save only some of her friends. Soon after, the survivors of the ride start dying in mysterious deaths and the clues on how they are going to die are shown to Wendy through the pictures that she took at the park. When it is revealed that Wendy’s sister (Amanda Crew) was photographed, Kevin and Wendy save her, therefore disrupting Death’s plan again. Five months later, when Kevin, Wendy and her sister all end up on a subway train at the same time, Wendy has another premonition where the train crashes, but this time they don’t get off in time.
The Final Destination takes place at a racetrack where Nick (Bobby Campo) and his friends are at the McKinley Speedway when has a premonition that a car crash will kill spectators and form a chain reaction that fatally kills them all. While trying to convince his friends to leave the racetrack, he starts a fight with the surrounding spectators and manages to leave, and watches the crash happen right in front of him. Once again, in a series of horrific deaths, the survivors start to get killed off in freak accidents. Nick learns about the previous incidents and is convinced that Death is after them. Before each death, Nick sees omen that hint at how the survivors would die. Nick has another premonition of an explosion at the mall that causes Lori and their friend, Janet’s (Haley Webb’s) death. All three of them survive but two weeks later, Nick starts to see omens which he questions whether Death is not finished with them yet, and they get killed by a truck that crashes into the cafe.
The last instalment of the Final Destination series, titled Final Destination 5 centres around Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto) and his colleague’s onboard a bus and as they cross the North Bay Bridge, Sam has a premonition that the bridge collapses and all of them die, leaving his ex-girlfriend, Molly (Emma Bell) the sole survivor. He manages to convince some of his colleagues to get off the bridge before it collapses. When one of the co-workers dies at the spa, the coroner, William, tells Sam and the remaining survivors that they can live if they kill someone by stealing that person’s lifespan. Two weeks later, Sam and Molly are boarding a plane to and as they are taking their seats, they witness a fight between Alex and his classmate, it is revealed that Sam and Molly are on Flight 180.
The Final Destination series is a fantastic study in using the same plotline to create elaborate and entertaining ways to kill characters. From characters getting their eyeballs lasered off to getting their head removed from a moving elevator, there are so many ways to keep the franchise as long as it did. Each movie is presented with a cheat code where the characters have to figure out a way to escape Death’s design. Omens, visions, and photographs are written as hints for the characters to survive the invisible and antagonistic force of Death. The premise surrounding the films and Death exists as an abstract concept and it slowly manifests into accidents, which has been unique for this franchise and the horror genre itself. Other franchises like Wes Craven’s Scream spawned four films, and it follows a teenage girl who is terrorized by a killer who disguises themselves as Ghostface and haunts them in the rest of the series. The Scream series combines the horror genre with comedy, as it involves a masked killer with a knife hunting students in the movie.
Another interesting part of the series is that in all of the films the characters are somehow connected. If Sam and his colleagues had died on the bridge, Alex would not have had the premonition and his friends would have survived the plane explosion. However, since Sam had foreseen the bridge collapse, he is the reason Death’s design started in the first film. In the second film, it is revealed that the survivors of Flight 180 and Route 23 are connected. The teacher that died, the woman that walked in front of a moving bus, Alex’s friend whose head was mutilated by a piece of metal at the train tracks were all connected to the characters in Final Destination 2, revealing that they were all meant to be there. It did not matter that the characters had survived or not, Death’s design had always a way of catching up with them.
Clear helps out Kimberly and the survivors of Route 23 by giving tips and clues on how Death’s design work. Instead of staying holed up in a psychiatric ward, she chooses to figure out Death’s design by revealing that the cycle of going backwards instead of the usual way, which is the order that they would die in the premonition. Kimberly’s visions are presented as hints to escape the design and find a way to survive so Death can skip you. She figures out that drowning and almost killing herself would break the cycle and they would be able to move on with their lives, however, Death is always looming when it is revealed that one of the characters was saved by a survivor that died, resulting in his death by an accidental explosion of the barbecue grill. In the third film, Death follows these characters to haunt Wendy and her friends. The hints are presented by images taken by her at the amusement park, which shows how her friends die. By swords, nails or getting fried at the salon, Wendy and Kevin are never there in time to save them. The twist at the end of the movie is that when Wendy, Kevin and her sister are at the train at the same time, she has another premonition which closes Death’s cycle of doom for now. The fourth movie, which ultimately is the final movie that ends Death’s loop. Nick is presented with omens that hint at objects that could kill the survivors. The final movie, Final Destination 5’s big twist at the end is what begins Death’s design. It was an unexpected and creative way to conclude the storyline by also bringing it back to the beginning of the series, somewhat almost causing the cycle of Death to begin once again.
Some may say that the series is a brilliant idea that provides poor execution. It is turbulent, intense, and each death is ingrained in everyone’s mind that watches the series. What is interesting about the Final Destination series is that it forgoes the traditional route of storytelling, by using the same formula to bring shock value and fear. Some of the deaths are unrealistic, but that is the point of it. It is not meant to be taken seriously but rather watching it with a touch of comedy and surrealism that blends to become an unexpected horror film. There is a sense of anxiety and exhilaration about Death and its design that makes the movie frightening. There isn’t any physical being that haunts them, it is just an invisible force that follows them around as they play a game of catch-up, eventually landing their deaths. Every object is weaponized in these movies and for the characters, the fear never goes away, which may be entertaining or traumatizing depending on the viewer.