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…

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Different things can surprise you

Creepy twins - played by Edmund and Gary Entin

A well made film is excellent. It’s not always good because it’s your type of film, but occasionally you’ll get a gem that whilst it doesn’t convert you to liking another genre, it does pleasantly surprise you. I found this out with a film called Seconds Apart.

What is Seconds Apart? It’s a supernatural horror film about two twins with extraordinary powers. Here’s a quick synopsis from IMDB:

Seth and Jonah are twins with a dangerous ability: telepathy. Things start to spiral out of their control as their classmates end up dying in twisted and bizarre ways. The police suspect them. But, jealousy begins to divide them and soon they can no longer trust each other. Leading up to a horrific battle against themselves.

Why did I enjoy the film? Well, Emily King is far more of a horror fan than I, but this film did have a few nice twists. I won’t spoil it for you, you’ll just have to watch the film! The acting was actually fairly good, and the creepiness factor within the family of the twins was turned to 11. While for the best part of the film, the twins are more or less like-minded in their desire to kill, however the further through the film you go, the more you realise just how different these twins are to each other. Orlando Jones’ character throughout the film was mostly okay, I do feel they may have overplayed the ending. You’ll understand when/if you see it.

Orlando Jones plays the detective that suspects something amiss about the twins

But it’s interesting how people come to like particular genres, while leaving other ones alone. Now I don’t want to turn this post into a genre-based one as that is not my intention. What I will talk about however is some things being appealing outside of you usual genres.

But how do you know what is good if you’re not into it? Well, that’s when you have to rely on the opinions of people that are into those genres. Also make sure they answer why its good. The last thing you want is the advice of someone who considers something a plus, when you consider it a minus. I personally love the idea of a non-physical being in horror films killing people, such as in Final Destination, but some others prefer a good ol’ slasher instead, having an enemy that is not only defeatable, but punishable.

You know the old saying: “Variety is the spice of life”.


Narrative Foreshadowing

Image courtesy of Chaospet - a pretty apt assessment of Terminator Salvation if you ask me!

There’s a fairly clever concept within the notion of storytelling. Well, to be fair, there’s several, but today I’m going to focus on just one – narrative foreshadowing. So what is it?

Well, narrative foreshadowing is when something in the story hints at what’s going to come. Not so much outrights says it, but simply hints. This is usually without the character’s knowledge, thus still remaining a surprise.

The hardest form of foreshadowing was the way things are implied by mentioning an element that will be used later in the story. Usually it is mentioned in passing the character’s mind or as seemingly insignificant. A well-known example is that of Chekhov’s gun: when a certain setting is described, it is mentioned that a loaded gun is hanging on a wall. Much later on, this is taken off the wall and fired. To draw the reader’s attention to the otherwise subtle foreshadowing element, writers may often make repeated references to the object throughout the story. – Wikipedia

A recent example of this is in Dr Who (The 6th series of the new stuff) where Amy Pond has had/is having the baby (I haven’t seen it yet, but please don’t spoil). This was hinted at in the previous season when they were in the dream. Likewise, Rory died in the dream, only to be killed later on that season.

Looking fed up. But is it of the pregnancy, or is it because Tim has an irrational hatred of her?

Final Destination thrived on this idea – characters being killed off in foretold ways. Yet, even though we knew hints about how the characters would be exterminated, there’s still a lot of guess work. Say for example, in Final Destination 2, we have a scene where one character gets the hint that another will be killed by hooks. What is unexpected is that the character is startled by hearing the news of how she will be killed next, knowing a guy with hooks is behind her, tries to escape, becoming ensnared in his hooks. The struggle then leads to the characters head being trapped between the doors of the lift, and slicing it off when the lift goes up. In effect, the hooks were only a single part of an elaborate conspiracy. It also showed the characters that their attempts to outsmart death become part of it’s plan.

That mother hooker! - Sorry, I had to...

But that’s a blatant version of narrative foreshadowing. Wikipedia also outlines a few other things about narrative foreshadowing:

Usually more subtle, foreshadowing works on the symbolic level. For example, if a character must break up a schoolyard fight among some boys, it might symbolically foreshadow the family squabbles that will become the central conflict of the story. Other times, it is seemingly inconsequential, with the goal of having the audience be surprised by the story’s climax and yet find it justified. If a character learns that a certain man was a regular at the diner where her mother worked many years before, it helps to justify the events later in which she learns that the man is her biological father.

If foreshadowing is not done carefully, the common experiences of life can make the foreshadowing too obvious and allow the audience to predict the outcome of the story. Example: a character behaves in an odd and erratic fashion and complains continuously of a headache, then later is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Foreshadowing can also be used dishonestly in a mystery, where a series of events which points to a conclusion is later found to be composed of unlikely coincidences which have been “dishonestly” added to the story by the author in an artificial way, with the sole purpose of drawing the audience into an incorrect expectation. In such cases, the audience feels manipulated, and the story may be less satisfying.

So used well, narrative foreshadowing can be very effective. Used badly, it can destroy a story. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to find out how effective the narrative foreshadowing is until you get a few people to read your stuff.

 


Scream 4

Scream 4 film poster, keeping in with the style of the first three films

The Scream films have always lived in infamy. Being the kings of the modern slasher sub-genre, with high production values and a range of high profile actors, it’s easy to see why Scream is so popular. The twists in the plot are unexpected, because this genre especially plays about with conventions and audience expectations. The director (Wes Craven) knows his audience well and can subvert and delight them by knowing exactly what they expect.

But aside from the generic nature as well as it’s post-modernism tones (reworking the idea of movies within movies for example), it kept the attention. Miss King is detailing a Scre4m themed blog about the story, so I’ll tackle the visuals. While there were few jump-out-of-your-seat moments, the setting was suitably dark, especially in the ratio of daytime to night scenes. The blood and gore were obviously a major factor, with typical if surprising methods of execution. I won’t go into details, as I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, but I will say that it is often creative.

The repetition of the idea of a “next generation” is systematically worked in several levels, including the methods and technology. Although this does lead on to the concept of, but not discussing snuff films. For anyone unfamiliar with the idea of snuff films, they’re films where people actually get hurt. Often they’re vicious and brutal, and people will be killed. On the screen. Without special effects. Thankfully, being a Hollywood horror, no actors were harmed in the making of this film.

Some of the big names: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox Arquette, David Arquette, Hayden Panettiere, Mary McDonnel, Kristen Bell, Anna Paquin, Heather Graham, Anthony Anderson and even a Culkin (Rory)!

The references to other horror films come thick and fast – if a bit too obvious. Virtually every major horror film since the 70’s are referenced in some way, and not just in dialogue (although quotes from the films integrated into regular dialogue would have worked better – Shaun of the Dead for instance used the phrase “We’re coming to get you Barbara”, a line taken in a completely different context in the original Night of the Living Dead). Overall, there’s been fairly few major horror films of this type recently, instead going for the psychological and physical grotesqueness of the Saw films (which is also referenced multiple times), numerous takes on the zombie and vampire genre or supernatural horrors such as Final Destination (another one referenced).

It’s nice to know that the good ol’ slasher, especially of this magnitude (one of the biggest in Hollywood I would argue) can still remain fresh yet familiar. A fine line that is difficult to walk.