Unpopular Opinions – Final Destination is a great horror series

The original Final Destination poster, complete with teenagers and skulls

–WARNING! THIS POST IS AN OPINION PIECE AND SHOULD BE TREATED AS SUCH!–

Final Destination is a series of films that I think are underrated. I don’t mean they should be more commercially successful, because they’re already a great earner, but they’re underrated in terms of popular opinion. From the original concept all the way through to the later films, I believe the idea is both original and a sign of how contemporary horror should be done. Here’s why…

I first watched Final Destination many years ago, and I remember seeing and feeling the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end when flight 180 blew up shortly after taking off. It was an amazing piece of cinema, with a massive explosion as well as the consequences of the successful premonition of the main character. Characters were visibly shaken up, and the kids were investigated for sabotage. But the thing that really brings the horror to story is that there is no physical being you can fight to prevent death from snagging you as its next victim. Once you’re on the list, it’s only a matter of time…

We know this guy knows what's going on, but we don't know how he fits in, or why...

This is very different from conventional horror films, where the evil is something physical, either homicidal maniacs, demons, monsters or fierce animals. With each of those listed enemies, there’s things you can do to deal with the threat – not just running, but also staying and fighting, finding swords, chainsaws, guns or other weapons, you can beat the threat (literally). With Final Destination, you are the prey and there’s nothing you can do about it.

But the inevitability of deaths of the main characters aren’t what really drives the plot – it’s the order of the victims, it’s the convoluted way people die, it’s the hints and red herrings of the focus of unsuspected items which act as a “guess how this person is going to die” quiz. Each time, the bizarre circumstances never fail to surprise me. Once more, the formula can be used over and over, simply because it’s universal – it can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time. And that concept is a true sense of horror – the realization that life can be cut short without warning is scary at best and paralyzingly terrifying at worst, and a concept that stays with you outside of the movie.

But people mostly complain about the sheer number of sequels of the films. Well, many horror films have vast number of sequels, especially those that the main threat is not completely destroyed. Some people complained about the title of the fourth film – The Final Destination. I’m really not petty enough to quibble about a title. Besides, death has pretty much been doing it’s thing, the real story happens when people survive who shouldn’t have. The first one worked on a premonition – followed by some creative discoveries. This is generally replicated in the rest of the films, with a general formula of –

  • Premonition of tragedy strikes >
  • Panic ensues, saving people’s lives >
  • One of the survivors gets killed in a freak accident >
  • A few get suspicious and refer back to flight 180, while others disbelieve >
  • Another person gets killed, forcing the group to stick together >
  • The survivors attempt to disrupt death’s plan somehow to save their lives >
  • Just when they think they’re safe, death catches up with them.

It’s a formula that works, and it’s a formula that will keep on working. It’s actually more original a concept than many other horrors, with a truly unkillable and unstopable enemy which can kill you at any time. Not to mention, pretty much every ending is actually good, and a theme tune that is both haunting and energetic – almost as if it’s describing the chase of the character’s and death.

Oh, and the most important thing about death in this series of films – no grim reaper. No begging for your life, no physical presence that you can run from. It’s calculating, it’s everywhere and it will get you. That sounds like the perfect horror film to me!

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