Since the inception of television, TV stars have attempted to make their way to the big screen. While some have easily made this transition, others have failed miserably, while others yet, have maintained a balance between TV and film. But, rarely do you hear of the creative force behind a TV show making the jump to the movies (Micheal Mann would be one obvious exception). James Wong and Glen Morgan have worked together on shows such as "The X-Files", "Millenium" and "Space: Above and Beyond". But, they have now made their jump to the big time with "Final Destination", which is coming to DVD courtesy of New Line Home Video, and if this fun and inventive horror film is any indication, they have a big future ahead of them.
The tagline for "Final Destination" is "Death is Coming" and for once, the advertising is accurate. The film opens with a high school group boarding a plane to Paris. Alex (Devon Sawa) has a premonition that the plane is going to explode and demands to leave the plane. The ruckus he creates forces six other passengers off of the plane -- Tod (Chad E. Donella), Billy (Seann William Scott), Clear (Ali Larter), Carter (Kerr Smith), Terry (Amanda Detmer), and Ms. Lewton (Kristen Cloke). The others are very upset with Alex - until the plane takes off and actually does explode. Alex realizes that the seven survivors of the plane crash were actually supposed to die and that death is coming for them. He begins to have visions of the demises of the other six survivors, but his attempts to help them are met with ridicule from everyone and suspicion from the FBI. As the series of deaths begins, Alex realizes that he must figure out death’s plan and overthrow it in order to save his friends.
Director James Wong and producer Glen Morgan take this wonderful premise and run with it, creating a refreshingly entertaining horror film that is both creepy and fun. Once the basic plot is set up, we know that the characters are going to die, it just becomes a matter of when and how. This idea is milked for an extreme amount of suspense and shocks, including one particular scene, which is the best "jump" scare in years! The film does have some plot holes (mostly surrounding the continuity of the death scenes) and the last reel is a bit weak, but overall "Final Destination" is a thrill-ride and a welcome addition the recent glut of "Scream" rip-offs. The movie gives us a great premise, good performances (especially from Sawa), creepy scares, and intelligent characters. "Final Destination" took me by surprise, but has found a place on my "Best of 2000" list.
"Final Destination" is part of New Line Home Video’s Platnium Series, and this DVD is simply filled to the brim with quality materials. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen and is letterboxed at 1.85:1. Allow me to throw aside the technical jargon for a moment and say that this transfer is simply beautiful. The digital transfer renders the image crystal clear, giving us a pristine version of the film. There are no flaws in the source print and the amount of grain on the image is negligible, nor is there any obvious noise or artifacting. The colors are very sharp, as light and dark play a big role in the film. No warping or bending of the frame is obvious, thus implying that the framing is correct. Director James Wong clearly worked very hard to make "Final Destination" a visual feast and this exquisite transfer allows us to see his vision as it was intended.
The audio on "Final Destination" is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. As with the video transfer, the sound is nearly flawless. There is a great deal of depth to the mix, which adds to the tension of the film. The bass response is excellent, which is made quite evident during the plane crash scene. The surround sound is active throughout the film, but is never overwhelming. Dialogue is clear and never muffled and Shirley Walker’s eerie score comes across powerfully with a wide spatial integration. The only complaint that I have is the lack of a true stereo sound field where the audio placement reflects the onscreen action. Still, this is a great sounding DVD.
Following the theme of the film, someone at New Line must have worked themselves to death stuffing the extras on this DVD. There are three, count ’em, three audio commentaries. The first commentary features director/writer James Wong, producer/writer Glen Morgan, editor James Coblentz, and writer Jeffrey Reddick. This commentary is a must, as the creative team points out all of the minute subtleties hidden throughout the film. Simply stated, almost every shot contains some kind of allusion to death or foreshadowing of the deaths in the film. While some are clearly visible upon an initial viewing, this commentary helps you to spot them all. Wong, Morgan, and Coblentz do most of the talking, as it’s obvious that Reddick’s track was recorded seperately and his comments are kept to a minimum. The filmmakers offer up very frank stories about the making of the film and how they worked with/fought the executives at New Line over various aspects of the film. This is a very informative and entertaining commentary.
The second audio commentary features cast members Devon Sawa, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, and Chad E. Donella. It is the polar opposite to the first one. The four actors are very casual in their comments and don’t seem to be taking the commentary very seriously. While this is somewhat fun, I couldn’t help but wish that they could be more specific in their comments. They do talk about what was involved in certain scenes, and how they each were cast in the film. However, for the most part this commentary is made up of in-jokes and comments that don’t really tell the audience much about the film.
The third commentary is imbedded in an isolated music score which is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Between musical cues, composer Shirley Walker tells us about what went into creating the music for "Final Destination". She gives us an idea of where her motivation for the score came from and describes her working relationship with Wong and Morgan. This is one of the more interesting music commentaries that I’ve heard and it definitely fits into the quality of this DVD.
The "Final Destination" DVD features three deleted scenes. Instead of your typical throw-away scenes, these three scenes represent an alternate version of the film. There are two brief scenes introducing a subplot between Alex and Clear. The third scene is actually a series of scenes, which make up an alternate ending totally different from the ending on the finished product. I won’t give away anything, but this ending is a total bummer and would’ve completely ruined any fun the viewer would’ve had while watching the movie. If you saw the film in theaters and enjoyed it, then you must see what "Final Destination" could have been.
There are two documentaries on the DVD. The first is entitled "A Look at Test Screenings". It runs about thirteen minutes and is another "must have" part of this DVD. This featurette outlines the test screening process and gives us an overview of how these screening are conducted and scored. We are treated to video footage of a test screening audience, and specific comments on why the deleted scenes didn’t work. Wong and Morgan read some of the comments from the test audience, and while they are too risque to be repeated here, trust me, they are hilarious. This documentary offers unprecedented insight into why certain scenes were deleted or reshot and offers both an artistic and business viewpoint on the subject.
The second documentary concerns real-life "intuitive investigator" Pam Coronado. The 20-minute feature explores the life of this woman who has helped the police on many murders and missing person cases with her psychic ability. While this is certainly an interesting documentary, and a clever tie-in to the subject matter of the film, I’m not here to watch "In Search Of..." -- I want to know more about the movie. However, once again I must applaud New Line on trying something different with their extra features.
The DVD contains two non DVD-ROM games, which are actually more like interactive demos. The first one is a grim little number entitled "Death Clock". For this, you answer a series of health related questions and it tells you how long you will live. The second game is a "Psychic Test" featuring Zener cards. These are five cards with various geometric shapes (the same cards that Bill Murray used for the psychic test in "Ghostbusters".) You are presented with 25 sets of cards and you must guess (or sense) which card is the correct one. The DVD also contains the original theatrical trailer for "Final Destination". As well as filmographies for the main cast and crew, but disappointingly, no biographies.
For horror fans looking for a good fix, you can’t go wrong with the "Final Destination" DVD. The movie is a great ride that should satisfy any fright-monger. But the DVD package makes "Final Destination" irresistible, offering a perfect transfer and a mountain of special features. New Line has really outdone themselves this time. Wait, I just had a psychic vision. I see that I’m going to watch this DVD again!