Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||James Wong|
|Produced by||Glen Morgan
|Screenplay by||James Wong
|Story by||Jeffrey Reddick|
|Music by||Shirley Walker|
|Editing by||James Coblentz|
Hard Eight Pictures
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Running time||98 minutes|
Final Destination is a 2000 American horror film directed by James Wong and the first installment in the Final Destination series. The screenplay was written by Glen Morgan, Wong and Jeffrey Reddick, based on a story by Reddick. 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 intended for The X-Files, written by Reddick. X-Files writing partners Wong and Morgan were interested and agreed to re-write and direct a feature film of it, marking Wong's film directing debut. Filming took place in Alabama and Vancouver. Final Destination was released on 17 March 2000, and was a financial success, making $10 million on its opening weekend. The film score was released on the same date comprising original compositions by Shirley Walker. The film was released on DVD on 26 September 2000 in the USA and Canada, which includes commentaries, deleted scenes, and documentaries.
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 four sequels, as well as a series of novels and comic books.
Alex Browning, a high school senior, boards Volée Airlines Flight 180 with his classmates and teachers for their senior trip from New York City to France. Before the airplane takes off, Alex has a premonition that the airplane will explode, killing all passengers. As events from his vision express themselves in reality, he attempts to stop the flight. The resulting commotion leads to the removal of some passengers, including Alex, Clear Rivers, Alex's best friend Tod Waggner, teacher Valerie Lewton, Alex's rival Carter Horton, Carter's girlfriend Terry Chaney and student Billy Hitchcock. After their removal from the airplane, none of the passengers believe Alex's statement until the airliner explodes. The survivors are investigated by two FBI agents who are interested in Alex's vision.
After attending a memorial for the victims, Tod accidentally hangs himself and is deemed a suicide. When Alex and Clear locate his corpse, mortician William Bludworth tells them that Death is reclaiming the lives of those who escaped its original plan, as is proven when Terry is suddenly rammed by a speeding bus. While watching a newsfeed detailing the flight's aftermath, Alex concludes that Death is killing the survivors in accordance with the sequence of their intended demises on the airplane. Nonetheless, he is too late to save Ms Lewton from an accidental kitchen knife impalement which ultimately causes her house's explosion. The remaining survivors (Alex, Clear, Carter, and Billy) are reunited as Alex explains the situation. Frustrated by Terry's death and at having no control over his life, Carter attempts suicide by stalling his car on railroad tracks. Though he changes his mind, Alex rescues him before an approaching train collides with the car. However, Billy is decapitated by shrapnel from the wreckage.
Withdrawing himself from the group, Alex believes that Death skipped Carter and progressed to Billy. Realizing Clear is actually next rather than himself, because he changed seats in the original premonition, Alex rushes to her aid and encounters the FBI agents along the way. Meanwhile, Clear is trapped inside her car, surrounded by loose live wires, and a leaking acyetelyne tank. Alex sacrifices himself on behalf of her safety by grabbing the wires, initiating an explosion which incapacitates him and the screen fades to white.
Six months later, Alex, Clear and Carter arrive in Paris and discuss their survival. Fearing that their struggle is unfinished, Alex avoids a collision with a bus. The bus hurls a signage towards a neon sign, which descends on Alex. Carter tackles Alex in time and inadvertently stands in the way of the swinging neon sign as the film's credits roll.
|"One thing we were all in agreement on from the start is that we didn't want to do a slasher movie. We didn't want a guy in a dark cloak or some kind of monster chasing after these kids. That's been done again and again. I became very excited when we decided to make the world at large, in the service of death, our antagonist. Everyday objects and occurrences then take on ominous proportions and it becomes less about whether or not our characters are going to die and more about how they will die and how they can delay their deaths. The entertainment value is in the 'ride' not in the outcome, and by placing the premise of the film on the inevitability of death, we play a certain philosophical note."|
|— James Wong on how he accepted the directing and 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. "I was actually flying home to Turkey and I read this story about a woman who was on vacation and her mom called her and said ‘Don’t take the flight tomorrow, I have a really bad feeling about it.’ She switched flights and the plane that she would have been on crashed. I thought, that’s creepy- what if she was supposed to die on that flight?" Reddick explained. Afterwards, Reddick decided to write a 14-page script about it entitled Flight 180 for The X-Files. His script was ignored by series creator/producer Chris Carter and his staff of writers, except for writing partners James Wong and Glen Morgan, who took an interest in it. Both writers were willing to make it into a film, though they rewrote the script to comply with their standards. "I believe that at one time or another we've all experienced a sense of prescience. We have a hunch, a feeling, and then that hunch proves true," Wong uttered. "We want to do for planes and air travel what Jaws did for sharks and swimming," Wong appended. "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,'" Morgan revealed. "Once we had a basic story, I started cataloguing the strange coincidences in my own life. For example, I was in the Vancouver airport waiting for a flight when John Denver came on over the loudspeaker. I remember saying to myself, 'Hey, he just died in a plane crash -- that's a little weird.' We wrote that version of that experience into the script," Morgan recalled. 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 financing and distributing rights for the film, after Reddick came to them personally.
"One of the most important things we were looking for in casting was the actors' ability to play the subtleties - the little things that a character doesn't say or do that create the edge. The things that get under your skin and spook you," Morgan pointed out during auditions. The role of Alex Browning was the last one cast, the role going to Canadian actor Devon Sawa, who previously starred in the 1999 film Idle Hands. Sawa commented that when "[he] read the script on a plane, [he] found [himself] peeking out the window at the engine every couple of minutes" and "[he] went down and met Glen and Jim and [he] thought they were amazing and already had some great ideas". However, Morgan and Wong were still uncertain of casting him for the part, so they wanted him to perform again as they reviewed his previous works. Morgan was astounded by his performance in Idle Hands, and Sawa was hired. Sawa described his role as "in the beginning, [Alex] was kinda loopy and cotter, and you know, probably not the most popular guy in school. I think he might have been a dork, you know, doing their stuff and they had their own thing going and they're after the two beautiful girls in school, but there's no chance of that happening. I guess after the plane goes down, his world completely changes." "Devon has an every man quality that makes him accessible," Wong remarked. "He doesn't appear as if he's supremely self-assured, he's more of a regular kid who can take on the complexities of the role and become a hero." Perry was amazed by Sawa's vulnerability in acting, describing him as "a very distinctive actor". "He's very loose and he's kind of a cut-up when he's not on camera; but the moment the camera's on, I'd never seen anybody to completely slide right through the moment." Perry added.
Ali Larter, who starred in the 1999 film Varsity Blues, was cast as female lead Clear Rivers. Larter asserted that "the film shows how easy it is to turn on someone, to blame someone when you're scared. It's also about trusting your intuitions and yourself." Larter defined her part as "that girl who has a lot of loss in her life and has fallen for herself, and had made a life within that. She's an artist, she lives by herself, and she's kinda' holding to her grip for what the world has given her." Seann William Scott, famous for portraying Steve Stifler in the 1999 film American Pie, was hired as class clown Billy Hitchcock. Scott admired the film for "its dark and eerie as any "Twilight Zone". Scott laughed at his role, claiming that "[he] is lacking some social skills, he doesn't have quite few friends, and he's like the tag-along." Scott was surprised when in the script he was fat. The writers eventually changed it for Scott. Dawson's Creek star Kerr Smith was cast as jock Carter Horton. Smith identified Carter as "your typical high school bully whose life depends on anger" and even mentioned the fact of Carter's fear against Alex for not having control of his own life.
Kristen Cloke, who is Morgan's wife, appeared as teacher Valerie Lewton. "I have incredible respect for them," said Cloke. "Jim's the kind of director who knows exactly what he wants. As an actor I can find a way to get there if I know specifically what I'm going for and Jim gives me that. The fact that he won't move on until he's got exactly what he wants creates a safe environment which allows me to experiment and try different things." Cloke described her part as "strong and sassy -- in control. After the crash she comes unglued, probably more than any of the kids, and it's a quick, drastic change. I had to understand the psychology of a person who can turn on a dime like that." Newcomers Amanda Detmer and Chad E. Donella were hired as students Terry Chaney and Tod Waggner, respectively. "When I first read the script the thing that struck me most was that the characters were well-written and the relationships between them were strong and believable," Detmer enthused. "That's important because you have to care about these people in order to be worried about what might happen to them." Detmer defined Terry as "very put-together [and] seems content to defer to [Carter] - to not make waves. But the stress of what happens affects their relationship and interestingly enough brings out a certain strength in her." On the other hand, Donella mused how similar his role is to himself. "I believe in fate. I think you come into this life with some things to accomplish and you're taken out earlier or later depending on the game plan." Tony Todd, who played Candyman in the 1992 film Candyman, was cast as mortician William Bludworth. Morgan initially wanted Todd for the role for his deep voice that will give the film an eerie tone.
Additional cast members included Daniel Roebuck and Roger Guenveur Smith as FBI agents Agent Weine and Agent Schreck correspondingly; Brendan Fehr, Christine Chatelain and Lisa Marie Caruk as students George Waggner, Blake Dreyer and Christa Marsh, respectively; Barbara Tyson and Robert Wisden as Barbara and Ken Browning, Alex' parents; and Forbes Angus as teacher Larry Murnau.
With Final Destination cast, filming took place on 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 Victoria. 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 plan behind-the-scenes was to create an intriguing visual signature. To serve the subtleties of the script and to help personify death, production designer John Willet developed the concept of 'skewing' the sets. "What I've tried to do with the sets themselves, with their design and with various color choices, is to make things just a little unnatural," Willet explained. "Nothing that calls attention to itself, but instead creates a sense of uneasiness -- the unsettling feeling that something's not quite right." To achieve this mystique, Willet designed two versions of virtually every set - one version was used before the crash and the other sets were used for scenes after the jet explodes. "On the skewed sets I force the perspective either vertically or horizontally," Willet articulated. "Nothing is square, and although you can't put your finger on it, it just makes you feel like something is not right." Likewise, skewing was part of the overall design for the color palette used in set decoration and costume design. "In the real world, the colors are bright and rich," Willet clarified. "In the skewed world they're washed out and faded. Nothing is obvious, and it's only in the overall effect that these subtle differences will work their magic."
The plane scene where passengers die in mid-air was done inside an extremely large sound stage. The three-ton hydraulic gimbal was automatically operated for movement. "We spent two months building this central set piece that weighs about forty-five thousand pounds and holds 89 people," special effects supervisor Terry Sonderhoff disclosed. Used for filing the riveting on-board sequences, it could be shifted on the gimbal to create a pitching movement of up to 45 degrees side-to-side and 60 degrees from to back, conveying most realistically the horror of airborne engine failure. Sawa added that "the screams of the cast inside the gimbal made it look more real". "You walk into the studio and there's a huge gimbal with a plane on top and you think, 'What have I done?' I was afraid we we're gonna have forty extras vomiting," joked Wong.
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 succession 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 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."
No official album accompanied the motion picture; however, there are six songs featured in the film itself. Most prominent is Rocky Mountain High by John Denver, the latter heavily highlighted throughout the film. Played to remind the survivors about Denver's death aboard a plane, the song is performed either before an accident or a character's demise. The song is also played by a street performer (Alessandro Juliani) in French. Other songs incorporated are Hundred Grand by Pete Atherton (during the Flight 180 memorial scene), Into the Void by Nine Inch Nails (during the café scene), All the Candles in the World by Jane Siberry (during Carter's car scene), and And When I Die by Joe 90 (during the end credits).
|Final Destination: The Complete Original Motion Picture Score|
|Film score by Shirley Walker|
|Released||17 March 2000|
|Shirley Walker chronology|
Final Destination: The Complete Original Motion Picture Score was released on March 17, 2000. All of the film's score were conducted by Daytime Emmy-winning composer Shirley Walker. Wong and Morgan initially wanted Walker to score the film, having previously worked with her in their sci-fi television show Space: Above and Beyond. Walker claimed: "[Morgan and Wong] are great believers in melody and having music for the characters and situations they find themselves in. Of course, the atmosphere had to be there also, especially for a film with as much suspense building as this film has."
The score is mostly low-key, with the exception of the suspense and death scenes. It was performed by a union orchestra, obliging New Line to grant the film its own score. Walker described her score as "very theme-driven, conservative music that covers the range from bizarre animal noises with stronger visceral impact to stirring emotional music with well-defined melodies that evolve through the storytelling." The score Main Title, used for the opening credits, was rare for opening a film aimed at youth audience that time. "What a treat for me to get to write a piece that calls you into the movie and lets you know something bad is going to happen from the get go", Walker cited. Walker admitted that Main Title consumed most of her time for its "dark theme and counter melody which carries throughout the score."
The score was positively received by commentators. Judge Harold Jervais of DVD Verdict mentioned how "Walker's wonderfully creepy and effective score are mixed together to form a very pleasing, almost organic-like whole." Mike Long of DVD Review stated that "Shirley Walker’s eerie score comes across powerfully with a wide spatial integration." Derek Germano of The Cinema Laser proclaimed that "Walker’s creepy musical score is really a winner, and is one of the things that will help to make Final Destination a minor genre classic a few years down the road."
|Final Destination: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|3.||"25 September, 9:25 PM"||0:46|
|6.||"Bad Dream, Part 1"||1:27|
|7.||"Bad Dream, Part 2"||0:39|
|8.||"Out of Flight 180"||1:00|
|24.||"The Train Accident"||1:52|
|28.||"Six Months Later"||0:43|
Box office 
The film premiered in 2,587 theaters across the United States and Canada on 17 March 2000, earning $10,015,822 on its opening weekend with an average of $3,871 per theater. Final Destination placed at #3 in the United States 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 eighth 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 26 September 2000 in the USA and Canada. The DVD includes bonus features including three audio commentaries, three deleted scenes, on top are two documentaries. The first commentary features Wong, Morgan, Reddick, and editor James Coblentz noting the minute subtleties included by the creative team throughout the film which are kinds of allusion to death or foreshadowing the deaths in the film invisible upon initial airing; as well as how the film was made and how they fought the executives of New Line over various aspects. The second commentary comprises Sawa, Smith, Cloke, and Donella talking about what was involved in certain scenes and how they each were cast. The third commentary is the isolated music score of Walker included in the film's score. Deleted scenes cover two subplots of Alex and Clear, and an alternate ending where Alex dies after rescuing Clear from the livewires, Clear bearing a baby which she named Alex (named after his father), and Clear and Carter becoming the only survivors of the film. The first documentary entitled A Look at Test Screenings runs for 13 minutes and outlines the test screening process and gives an overview of how those screening were conducted and scored. The featurette also shows video footage of the test screening audience and specific comments on why the deleted scenes were either cut or reshot. The second documentary labelled Premonitions explores real-life intuitive investigator Pam Coronado, who has helped the police on many murders and missing person cases with her psychic ability. The video runs for 20 minutes. Some DVDs contain two non DVD-ROM games Death Clock and Psychic Test, in addition are the film's theatrical trailer and filmographies of the cast and crew.
Critical response 
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports 33% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based on 93 reviews, with an average rating of 4.7/10. 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. On 14 June 2010, Nick Hyman of Metacritic included Final Destination in the website's editorial 15 Movies the Critics Got Wrong, denoting that "the elaborate suspense/action set pieces from the first two films are more impressive than most."
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." 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 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 Lisa Alspector of Chicago Reader described the film as "disturbing--if less sophisticated than the best SF (science fiction)-horror TV." 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".
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"; 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."
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." 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. Sawa also won the Saturn Award for Best Performance by a Younger Actor on the same year. Larter 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.
The film's concept is cited as #46 in Bravo's 100 Greatest Scary Moments, in which Smith represented the film. The Flight 180 explosion scene was included in the lists of best fictional plane crashes or disaster scenes by Break Studios, Unreality Magazine, New Movies.net, The Jetpacker, MaximOnline, and Filmsite.org. Filmsite.org also enlisted the plane scene and deaths of three characters (Tod, Terry, and Ms. Lewton) in its Scariest Movie Moments and Scenes and all fatalities in its Best Film Deaths Scenes. The demise of Detmer's character entered these listings of the most shocking deaths on film: George Wales and Simon Kinnear of Total Film (#29 and #10, respectively), Simon Hill of Eat Horror (#10), and Dirk Sonningsen of Mania (#10).
See also 
- Final Destination 2
- Final Destination 3
- The Final Destination
- Final Destination 5
- Final Destination (film series)
- List of unmade episodes of The X-Files
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