Final Destination 2 [2003]

While hardly a spiritual upgrade of the slasher film, this high-concept teen body-count thriller drops hints of The Sixth Sense into the smart-aleck sensibility of Scream. Helmed by X-Files veteran James Wong, who cowrote the screenplay with longtime creative partner Glen Morgan, Final Destination is an often entertaining thriller marked by an unsettling sense of unease and scenes of eerie imagery. It suffers, however, from a schizophrenic tone and a frankly ludicrous premise. A high school Cassandra, Alex Browning (Devon Sawa of Idle Hands), wakes from a preflight nightmare and panics when he's convinced the plane is doomed. His ruckus bumps seven passengers from the Paris-bound plane, which immediately explodes into a fireball on takeoff, but fate hasn't finished with these lucky few and, one by one, death claims them. Wong brings such a funereal tone to these early scenes of survivor's guilt and inevitable doom that the already far-fetched film threatens to veer into unplanned absurdity. Thankfully, the tale loosens up with a playful morgue humor: one of the victims winds up the splattered punch line to a grim joke and elaborate Rube Goldbergesque chains of cause and effect become inspired spectacles of destruction. Final Destination is a pretty silly thriller when it takes itself seriously, and the filmmakers play fast and loose with their own rules of fate, but once they stick their tongues firmly in cheek, the film takes off with a screwy interpretation of the domino effect of doom. --Sean Axmaker

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