Remember The X-Files? Writing a script in his spare time, Jeffrey Reddick conceived of an episode inspired by a woman’s premonition that the plane her mother was booked to fly on was going to crash. And it did. Fast forward a few years and the script had been picked up by New Line Cinema and turned into a feature film. Existing in a world somewhere between American Pie and Saw, the Final Destination franchise was born.
As a whole, the series has received a strangely divided response. On the one hand, the critics who derided Saw as nothing more than a clip show viewing experience for torture porn understandably hated it. They saw it as little more than a way to invent complex, death-inducing Rube Goldberg Machines. However, there were those who sat on the other side, viewing the series as a piece of postmodern art, cleverly personifying death.
Obviously, both sides of the spectrum take things a little far. It’s hard to imagine Reddick thinking up his episode of The X-Files as a complex piece of postmodern commentary on the state of modern horror. While the set-pieces may be well-executed, there doesn’t seem to be any overt attempt to portray pretentious artistic visions. In fact, the whole reason the series works so well is because of its appeal to teenagers and enduring ability to be re-watched in snippets on YouTube.
At the same time, the critics who pan the series as wholly unintelligent aren’t quite looking hard enough. The idea of death’s design being the omnipresent bad guy is great as it, but did the critics make it to the end of Final Destination 5? The film is presented as a run-of-the-mill sequel to the series just like each of the other entries until the final moments drop one of the biggest twists in modern cinema history. It was a prequel the whole time. Sam and Molly board the flight from the beginning of the first film and die as it explodes before its landing gear lands on Nathan and kills him. Not only does this link the series together beautifully, but it retcons a reason behind the start of the series into existence.
Despite the subtle intelligence behind the series, it’s hard to deny that the reason for its fame is, just like Saw, its incredibly graphic death scenes. Everything from the comedic sizzling of Ashley and Ashlyn in matching tanning beds, to the graphic brutality of Lewton’s kitchen capers, to the crushing jump scare of Terry’s encounter with the underside of bus is strangely well thought out.
You can’t argue with numbers, and considering the five-part franchise grossed over half a billion dollars across its eleven-year lifespan, spawned two comic books and nine novels and has been greenlit for a reboot, it’s hard to deny that Final Destination was a pretty successful episode of The X-Files.
Even if IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic don’t quite agree…