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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Final Destination
Final Destination
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted September 26, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

"Final Destination" came along in the middle of March, and to most it probably looked like another one in a seemingly endless line of "teen horror" films. But that's just a surface look; underneath is a smart, scary picture whose positive word-of-mouth certainly helped carry it to solid grosses.

The film stars Devon Sawa, who is a newer actor that I consider pretty good, and getting better as he goes along, with a recent solid turn as a teenager in rehab in the recent "Around The Fire". Sawa is Alex Browning, a teenager about to go on a class trip to France. At the airport, everything seems to be just a little off. When he boards the plane, he has a vision of the plane's destruction soon after takeoff. Alex loses it, freaks out and gets himself, a teacher and a couple of other students booted from the plane.

They're all furious with him - an emotion which quickly changes when the plane explodes right outside the window of the terminal. The FBI suspects that he was a part of the cause of the crash since he did predict it, but they have no solid evidence to link him to it. The crash sequence itself is visually terrifying, and similar to the scene shown in David Fincher's "Fight Club". With recent incidents, this was probably not the best thing to show - somehow, maybe less visually could have been more, but the final product is the final product.

The film has a few flaws, but rather than be comfortable in the cliches of the genre like some recent films, it at least tries, and successfully so, to insert some originality into the events that come after the opening. Alex soon realizes that he and his friends have cheated death; one by one, the survivors start dying, and Alex realizes that death is after them. The death scenes are rather violent, but I have to say they're at least quite inventive. I won't ruin the suprises, though.

Some of the violence is a little bit much in a film where, with "X-Files" veterans at the helm, should have kept towards the less seen is actually sometimes scarier method. Still, the film is able to gain quite a bit of tension, and the performances by Ali Larter, Sawa and the rest of the cast do well with characters that aren't fully written, but are certainly better developed than most teen movies are today.

All-in-all though, the film is something that should be looked at as simply entertainment, and in that role, it does do a very good job. Much of the film had me on the edge of my seat and entertained.


VIDEO: Everything we've come to expect from New Line is included here; images that are sharp and detailed, a print that is clear and free of defects, and a lack of other problems. To go into further detail, sharpness is perfect. Images are natural and film-like, never looking the least bit soft. Detail is also excellent, and even in the darker scenes of the film (of which there are definitely a few), the image still has solid detail and clarity.

Colors are bold and well-saturated, looking vibrant and without any flaws at all. Black level is also strong, and flesh tones are natural and accurate. Most impressive is the almost complete lack of flaws; no pixelation, no shimmering, and the print used is free of any flaws such as marks or scratches - crisp and clear, like what you would expect from a movie that only left theaters a couple of months ago.

The layer change is apparent at about 1 hour and 2 minutes into the movie, but it doesn't distrupt the film at all. Look for enjoyable cinematography from Robert McLachlan, who was also the cinematographer for "X-Files" creator Chris Carter's short-lived series "Millenium", which "X-Files" producer and director (and "Final Destination") director James Wong also worked on. Kind of like "Six Degrees Of Separation" for "The X-Files".

SOUND: "Final Destination" delivers on the audio front, as well. The plane explosion is made even more terrifying by how intense it sounds on the DVD - a heavy, deep blast that fills the room. Much of the remainder of the film operates on a similar level, with, at the most intense, agressive surround use and solid bass. At the very least, subtle surround effects add greatly to the level of tension in the film.

The score and songs on the soundtrack sound dynamic and enter the listening space with solid presence and their use in the film is entertaining and not overdone like some teen movies. This is a very good film in terms of audio, and I didn't ever feel that it missed an opportunity for an effective sound to add to the terror. Audio quality in general is excellent, as well - the audio is warm and crisp, never thin. Dialogue is also clean and easily understood. A very entertaining, very effective soundtrack.

MENUS:: New Line turns in some of their very best menu work with "Final Destination"; menus that are creepy with excellent animation and background sounds. The menus are also in Dolby Digital 5.1.


Commentary One: This is a commentary from actors on the film, including Kerr Smith, Devon Sawa, Kirstin Cloke and Chad Donella. The commentary mainly serves as a chance for the group to recall some of the stories that happened on the set of the movie, and lead the viewer through how they did some of the film's scenes.

I really liked listening to this track; the 4 of them have a relaxed atmosphere, and have a lot fun recalling what it took to make the film. The commentary does have some pauses, but they are very short and the discussion keeps nicely paced - organized and informative, yet very fun. I liked hearing about what attracted the actors to the film, and their views on the reaction from audiences to the movie. A solid commentary that's definitely worth listening to.

Commentary Two: This is a commentary by James Wong, Glen Morgan, James Coblentz and Jeffrey Reddick. This is more of a technical commentary than the other and not quite as fun, but still informative. We learn even more on this track, and I was pleased to hear that it doesn't really go over the same ground as the previous commentary track does. There are quite a lot of good technical comments, but also some interesting general ones, such as how a neighborhood wanted to keep a nice looking house that the filmmakers were going to destroy later. There are only a few pauses to the commentary, and it's definitely a good place to look if you're looking to find out more about how many of the scenes were made, and more technical behind-the-scenes information.

A Look At Test Screenings: This is the additional feature that I was most interested in getting a look at when the DVD was first announced. As we all know, test screening audiences have become more and more important to the studios and the process has been more and more complex - are the wrong people in the screening? Are they filling out the cards honestly?
On the flip side, there's the side of the filmmakers and the studio, who are waiting for that first test to go through - with sometimes the score and some of the effects missing during the screenings for some films, that makes the testing process sometimes that much tougher.

In this documentary, we hear from many of the crew members involved with the production, as well as a couple of members of the studio who were involved with the production of the film. It's really a treat to finally hear the reaction of those involved to the process and how they have to gauge the interest of the screening audience and know when they've lost the audience for even a moment. Also during this documentary, there are clips that were deleted from the film shown to illustrate the kind of things that had to be taken out of the final product.

When the filmmakers read some of the responses, you have to wonder if this process has to be refined a bit in the way it recruits audiences. Still, this documentary really is the best look that I've seen at a process that really has become a bigger and bigger part of the journey that films have to take on the way to the screen. This is definitely a must-see documentary. At only about 13 minutes or so, the documentary left me wanting even greater detail, but as is, I really enjoyed it a lot.

Premonitions: A second featurette that takes a look at a real life woman who has seen incidents before they've happened. An interesting sort of companion piece to the movie, and worth a look.

Deleted Scenes: Three scenes are included here, one of which is an alternate ending. I won't reveal what the alternate ending is, but personally, I like the ending in the final product more simply because it keeps with the intensity of the rest of the picture. Still, it's always interesting to see what was taken out of the picture.

Also: Cast and crew bios, the theatrical trailer, in Dolby Digital 5.1 and letterboxed at 1.85:1, isolated score in Dolby Digital 5.1 with commentary from composer Shirley Walker. The "Games" section includes 2 games - "Death Clock" which calculates how much time you've got based on questions you answer, and also, a game that tests your psychic ability.

DVD-ROM:Original theatrical website and also, read the script while watching the film.

Final Thoughts: "Final Destination" is a movie with some slight flaws, but in a genre that's given us not a whole lot that's new recently, the film is an original thriller that has a lot of tension and solid scares. As for New Line's DVD, there's not much to say besides this is defintely a great job from the studio. At the low price of $24.98 for so much material and an entertaining film, this is definitely recommended.

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