Final Destination (2000) landed in a time when both the world, fresh out of Y2K, and the horror genre, were suddenly shifting. The first film was born from a spec script by Jeffrey Reddick for an episode of The X-Files. The episode went unproduced, but the concept of caught the attention of The X-Files writing veterans Glen Morgan and James Wong, who decided to rewrite the script as a feature, with Morgan making his directorial debut. The result was a memorable film that served as a sort of bridge between the teen horror cycle of the 90s, which included Scream (1996), Urban Legend (1998), and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), and the gorier fare of the early aughts, like Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005). Final Destination and its four sequels offered the perfect blend of teen heart-throbs, supernatural elements, and brutal deaths.
What’s so great about the Final Destination series goes beyond the creative kills. These movies have been able to inspire terror of the mundane in those who have seen them. You didn’t need to cheat death to suddenly have a healthy paranoia about everything that might happen to you. As much as many of the deaths feel silly or contrived, you can’t help but wonder if some of these deaths could actually happen if all of the right factors existed. Final Destination was all too happy to remind us of our own mortality and force us to examine even the most statistically unlikely ways we can die.
“Final Destination was all too happy to remind us of our own mortality…”
In honour of the anniversary of the first film’s release on March 17th, 2000, we’re taking a look at some of those paranoia-inspiring scenes. This isn’t a definitive ranking of Final Destination deaths; rather, we’re taking a moment to appreciate some of the deaths that just stick in the back of your mind years after you first watched the movies.
The Plane Crash – Final Destination (2000)
This was the incident that launched a franchise. When Alex (Devon Sawa) has a premonition that the plane he’s about to board for his high school senior trip is going to explode, he understandably freaks out and refuses to fly. His fear is infectious enough to force some of his friends to abandon their trip, only to watch the plane burst into flames upon take off.
Despite the relative safety of traveling by flight compared to other modes of transportation, a lot of people are nervous flyers (or refuse to get onto planes at all). The inciting incident of Final Destination does nothing but reinforce a fear of flying.
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The Bathroom – Final Destination (2000)
Do you have a non-slip mat inside your tub? It might save your life. In Tod (Chad E. Donella)’s case, a tub mat wouldn’t have stopped him from slipping and getting a shower wire wrapped around his neck, but it might have given him the traction he needed to stand up and free himself. If this scene has left you with shower wire anxiety, maybe just sling your wet clothes over the shower curtain rod instead.
The Logging Truck – Final Destination 2 (2003)
Driving is the most dangerous thing many of us do every day without really thinking about how dangerous it is. Even if you’re driving safely — which wasn’t the case for most of the victims in the opening death scene for Final Destination 2 — you’re still riding in a metal machine hurtling down a road with other cars doing the same. Logs unexpectedly falling off a truck into the road can quickly turn into a deadly pileup.
I might be biased because I live in an area where logging trucks are common, but this scene is the one that comes up most often when someone brings up Final Destination in casual conversation. You might be able to walk into a bathroom or ride a roller coaster without thinking about a Final Destination scene every time you do it, but I dare you to share a road with a logging truck and not think about the logs falling off.
The Roller Coaster – Final Destination 3 (2006)
Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead in one of her earliest film roles) just wants to enjoy her senior class trip. It’s no fancy trip to Paris for this class — they’re having a night at an amusement part. Right when she’s about to ride the Devil’s Flight roller coaster, Wendy has a premonition that the rider’s hydraulics are going to fail. She causes a scene that forces some of her friends and classmates off the ride, but everyone else falls victim to a deadly derailment.
Besides being exhilarating, there’s something about fast coasters that feels like they were designed to remind make you feel like you might die (or maybe I’m just a big chicken). If you’re a theme park thrill seeker, rest assured that roller coasters are held to a high safety standard, and of the few deaths on record, most of them are thanks to riders ignoring the rules of the ride. Respect the ride, survive the ride.
The Tanning Beds – Final Destination 3 (2006)
The early- to-mid 2000’s had a bit of an obsession with tanning beds and spray tans. Everyone knew someone who made such regular tanning appointments that they could either be described as “sun-kissed” or “Cheeto”, and everyone had heard at least one urban legend about someone who cooked their insides by over-tanning (a quick Snopes search actually shows that this urban legend — proven false — has been around since the late 80s).
In a twist on the legend, Final Destination 3 leaves two characters, Ashley (Chelan Simmons) and Ashlyn (Crystal Lowe), trapped in their respective tanning beds when a shelf falls and wedges their beds shut. As they try to push the lids open, the beds malfunction and crank up the heat, incinerating Ashley and Ashlyn inside.
The Pool Drain – The Final Destination (2009)
When Hunt (Nick Zano) dives into a pool to retrieve a dropped coin, he doesn’t realize that the pool drain is turned on. What he soon realizes is that older pool drain models have a dangerous amount of suction. Trapped at the bottom of the pool, the drain is powerful enough to pull Hunt‘s intestines out of his body. Although, this uncommon occurrence is even more rare now that pool drain systems have seen huge safety improvements, Hunt‘s death was probably inspired by real pool drain incidents.
Between this scene, real pool drain injuries, and the similarly horrifying short story “Guts” from Chuck Palanhiuk’s 2005 book Haunted, there’s probably a decent number of people who think twice about dipping into pools (I’ll stick to lakes, thanks).
The Laser Eye Surgery – Final Destination 5 (2011)
Olivia (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) is already nervous about her corrective eye surgery — even knowing that laser eye procedures are routine doesn’t change the anxiety about a precision laser being used on your eyeball. When her doctor steps out of the office, a water spill turns into an electrical malfunction that powers up the laser so that it burns uncontrolled. Olivia manages to escape the laser—not without sustaining nasty burns —only to immediately stumble and fall to her death.
Okay, so technically it’s not the laser that kills Olivia, but the sight of a powerful laser gone haywire and etching eyeball and flesh is enough to make some of us hang on to our glasses and contact lenses instead.
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