- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

All horror movies are founded on some sort of hokey supernatural phenomenon. As if real life weren't scary enough, we in the comfortable, prosperous West need a little jolt of the paranormal to make our hair stand on end.
From the immortal killer of "Halloween" to the demonic possession of "The Exorcist," what scares us most is the transgression of natural boundaries: the stuff science can't control or explain or prevent.
But "Final Destination 2" is a curious thing: It's not at all frightening in the traditional sense. There is no monster, no masked murderer, no school of deadly piranha. There is nothing and nobody palpably scary stalking the plot.
What there is, simply, is death. Better make that Death, because in "Final Destination 2," it is a malevolent and involved deity; it intervenes in daily life and makes putty of human free will.
Death, in this film, is like a Calvinistic anti-god that keeps a tight schedule of macabre predestination. If people don't die when they're supposed to, Death redoubles its efforts. Death is a control freak.
In the first "Final Destination," a boy has an occult premonition that the Paris-bound plane he and his high school classmates are about to board will crash. He begs his friends to skip the flight. They do; it crashes.
Death feels cheated and subsequently sets the space-time continuum to rights. All but one of the students die in freak accidents. The only survivor (Ali Larter) is first encountered in this sequel as a voluntarily confined mental patient.
"Final Destination 2" picks up where its 2000 predecessor left off. On the first anniversary of the Flight 180 crash, Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) and three teenage friends are en route to Daytona Beach for a week of cavorting and carousing.
As they're about to pull onto Route 23, Kimberly has a vision: a horrific highway accident in which she and her passengers die in a multiple-vehicle pileup.
We are shown the wreck in meticulously morbid detail. It's a slow-motion ballet of carnage, chockablock with careering cars, human dismemberment and not a few explosions.
When she comes to, Kimberly stops her car at the mouth of a Route 23 on-ramp and blocks a line of cars from entering the highway. She and the other drivers thus "survive" the crash in which Death had planned for them to die.
The rest of the movie becomes a grotesque little game: The survivors start falling victim to bizarre, elaborate concatenations of events that lead to their deaths.
Director David Ellis revels in gratuitous gore gore for its own non-socially-redeeming sake. As a longtime stunt coordinator and an uncredited second-unit director of the forthcoming "The Matrix Reloaded," Mr. Ellis coaxes Oscar-worthy performances out of anything that burns fossil fuels. If only he could direct humans.
There is, to be sure, technical skill to what Mr. Ellis does, but when he reaches for spiritual insight, all he delivers is the obvious. This just in: You can't cheat death.
"Final Destination 2" giggles at human carnage. Like the underground "Faces of Death" series, it's a celebration of insensate violence and nihilistic humor. It serves no purpose other than to coarsen its audience.
I hate to break it you: One day, you are going to die. That's no premonition. It's the human condition. For some reason, this sleazy and stupid movie thinks that's funny.

TITLE: "Final Destination 2"
RATING: R (Pervasive atmosphere of death and morbidity; graphic depictions of violent accidents, dismemberment; drug use; brief nudity)
CREDITS: Directed by David Ellis. Produced by Warren Zide and Craig Perry. Story by J. Mackeye Gruber, Eric Bress and Jeffrey Reddick. Screenplay by Mr. Gruber and Mr. Bress. Original music by Shirley Walker.
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

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