[‘Scared Flixist’ is where we talk about movies that really, truly scared us. There’s plenty of great horror out there, but a movie that truly gets into your head and creeps you out for years to come is a rare creature. These are those movies.]
I am someone who is frightened very easily although I am a giant pinnacle of manliness (those who read most of my posts will quickly realize I like to overuse the phrase “Creepy McCreeperton”). I can’t watch a horror film in theaters because I’m not about to spend ten dollars to look at the floor (that’s why I haven’t seen Slither!). That being said, there are very few films that stick with me beyond that initial “Holy Sh**!” Few films that have images that stick to me, stick to my damn core. One of them is Final Destination.
What? You mean you don’t know why Final Destination is scary and think it’s just some gore fest? Well let me ask you somethin’ sonny. Can you kick around inevitability like you can kick around that doll from Child’s Play? Can you avoid the passage of time like you can avoid that Jason X fella as long as you don’t go into space? Can you run from an intangible idea like you can run from that one red headed kid from Children of the Corn? Seriously, think about it. You can’t run away from Death. It hunts you down and destroys you in the most appalling, yet sort of hilarious ways.
Final Destination was the first R rated film I watched that wasn’t just rated R because of the nudity. I was about ten years old and snuck into a dollar theater showing with my cousin whose friend was totes legit in letting us see it. It was the Early Bird showing, so that meant it was just my cousin and I with some random dude in the back of the theater (probably acting in a questionable manner) at eleven or so in the morning. My cousin and I were having an awesome day before the movie. She and I got some totally awesome breakfast tacos with like all the cheese, and I ate soooo much. I was feeling good, hyped even. Then…then the film started.
If you haven’t heard of Final Destination, here’s a quick rundown of the film. Alex (Devon Sawa) and his classmates are going on their Senior class field trip to Paris. Upon boarding the plane, Alex has a vivid (and I mean, vivid) premonition that the plane explodes and kills everyone on board. Alex then tries to warn everyone in a panic, and in the midst of his panic, he and six of friends are escorted off the plane. Then the plane really explodes. That’s where the bulk of the craziness kicks in. The crux of the film is that since Alex had predicted and avoided the death of himself and his friends, he ruined Death’s plan. Death follows them and tries to then take their lives one by one.
I remember silently sitting there watching Alex, with an amazing performance by Devon Sawa (who is criminally underrated. For serious, go watch Eminem’s video for “Stan”), slowly deteriorate as he tried to rationalize why his close friends were dying around him. I witnessed this man tug at strings heedlessly as he personified death. I saw him break down as he selfishly, foolishly believed that he could cheat his own death. The very idea of “cheating” and turning his life into a dangerous game is explosively narcissistic. Through his eyes, Death had become a tangible, avoidable humanoid entity. That’s when I had a horrifying epiphany. Alex was me.
Alex acted in the same way I would have. If people began dying around me in an obscene excess, I would try my damndest to get an explanation, even if I needed to fabricate my own. As he continued to struggle, I saw more of myself. He listened to the ramblings of the creepy coroner (Tony “The Candyman” Todd), he submitted to the idea of Death’s “plan” and framework, and by the end of the film, Alex had become a paranoid, emotional wreck that talked to himself. He needed for there to be a plan, a possible explanation. I needed one.
Because of continuing tragedies around him, Alex slowly descended into an inescapable void of paranoia that handicapped him. That crippling paranoia eventually lead to a even more damaging egocentricity. His friends died, but for some reason Alex just knew he could survive. There was no time to mourn those deaths as he truly believed that he was above the laws of nature. He was the only one to figure out “Death’s design.” He alone was the “main character” of his story. That narcissism caused Alex to experience a very unsatisfactory few remaining moments of life. He kept himself in his house, chose not to spend time with his family or pursue relationships, and couldn’t even eat properly.
Throughout the years, I have slowly come to the realization that I am a selfish man. My greatest fear is that, in a time of crisis, I would choose my life over others. Would I amount to nothing more than that asshole who dies in the most grisly way in slasher films? Given a tragedy, would I lose my grip on reality like Alex and be fearful for my own life? Could I mourn the deaths of others like a sane person or would I slowly become the lonely shut in who tells the kids to get off his lawn? And ultimately, would Alex and I share the same fate of being alone and afraid of the world? No other film has made me think about myself that much and, since I’m in love with me, it took looking in the mirror to set me on a different path.
These kids didn’t do anything wrong either. They didn’t play a tape they weren’t supposed to, they didn’t have sex and do drugs, they didn’t live on the wrong street or take that wrong turn. They were just average people whose time had come. Random people caught in a random event. The stuff that happens to these people could very easily happen to any one of us.
While later films in the franchise (there are five, FIVE) took the “death trap” idea to ridiculous levels, made the deaths seem less and less feasible, and gave Death a visible persona (it became a stupid shadow) there will always be an underlying thematic fear that anything could happen to you, mostly me, at any time.
It could be as simple as driving a car, riding a roller coaster, taking the subway, sitting in a restaurant, taking an elevator, lighting a barbecue, getting surgery, crossing a bridge, walking through a construction site, crossing the street without looking both ways, making a pot of tea, lighting a candle, swimming in a pool, going to a state fair, working with tools, sleeping in a tanning bed, shaving your beard, working out in the gym, or flying in a plane.
Then…poof. You’re gone.