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Friday, January 31, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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It's sick and gruesome — and that's 'Final'

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review


( star)
"Final Destination 2," with Ali Larter, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes, T.C. Carson, Jonathan Cherry, Keegan Connor Tracy. Directed by David R. Ellis, from a screenplay by J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress. 95 minutes. Rated R for strong violence/gruesome accidents, language, drug content and some nudity. Several theaters.

The "Final Destination" franchise is now two movies old, and it still hasn't answered its own most pressing question: Why does absolutely nobody in these movies seem to think that "Clear Rivers" is a rather odd name for a person? (Maybe they're all originally from Darkness Falls, the small-town location of last week's cheapo horror movie, and aren't too picky about names.)

Anyway, poor old Clear (Ali Larter), who spent 2000's "Final Destination" averting death and wearing a wide selection of bare-midriff tops, is back for a sequel, living in a chic little white padded cell. Death, apparently, has her number and won't take no for an answer, like a really persistent ex-boyfriend with telekinetic powers. Obviously the whole thing has been trying; she's turned quite blond from stress.

Ah, yes, a staple of the January movie season — the gruesome teen-death movie. "Final Destination," which must have made a fair bit of money three years ago, was a decent idea gone wrong; "Final Destination 2" is stupid death porn, like a supersized video game.

The original movie toyed with some interesting questions of fate and the unknown, like a good "X-Files" episode, before disintegrating into a series of increasingly spectacular demises. Its sequel follows the same plot — a teen envisions a terrible accident and cheats death, only to find that death is stalking her and her fellow survivors — but this one barely seems to have a screenplay. It's just a series of meetings with a rather creative Grim Reaper, with people getting crushed or decapitated or otherwise dismembered, while the others stand around and shriek.

Director David Ellis, a former stuntman and second-unit director who previously directed the family-friendly "Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco" (now there's a varied résumé for you), seems most fond of a maneuver I can only call the Death Gotcha. A close relative of the Gotcha (the sudden sneaking-up appearance of somebody; see "Darkness Falls" for innumerable examples), the Death Gotcha is basically a death tease — we think somebody's going to die one way, but they survive, only to buy the farm moments later in some other, even more spectacular way. Who knew, for example, that when the pierced-nipple kid got his hand stuck in the sink disposal, that he'd actually wrench his arm out, escape from the burning apartment, clamber down the fire escape, only to find — curses! — that he gets impaled by a stray ladder?

I could go on — there's the dental-chair death tease, complete with a gruesome mouth close-up; the weird hair-sniffing guy with the basket of artificial limbs (note to self: avoid such people); the barbed-wire slashings and more impalements than you can shake a stick at. It's sick, stupid stuff, and intentionally so. "Final Destination 2" (you wonder which titles were rejected as being too dopey) deserves a gruesome fate. Impale this movie, and fast.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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