Take a walk down rip-off alley: Final Destination
As the outward ripples caused by Scream‘s splash began to calm, and the likes of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween H20, and Urban Legend became the likes of Valentine, Cherry Falls, and The Clown at Midnight, into our lives came Final Destination, delaying the decline of teen horror a little longer with its undeniably awesome premise.
Surprisingly, Xeroxing the central motif employed in Final Destination - that victims are killed by elaborate ACME-style cartoon accidents – has clearly proven quite difficult to achieve, and so what rip-offs it inspired have been relatively few and far between. Stroll with me now, through the back streets where mysterious forces might drop a piano on your head…
Thai export 999-9999 came first, in 2002, and introduced us to life at a high school where a group of prankster students are talked into dialling the freaky 999-9999 number, which will grant you any wish.
Despite transfer student Rainbow warning them of the consequences, they each wish for fame, fortune, and Ferraris and, when karma’s bill comes-a-callin’, are killed in weird car wash accidents, drowned and slashed by floating razors (!), perish in fires, fall out of windows, and in one to-be-seen-to-be-believed sequence, sucked into anti-gravity chambers along with lethal buzzsaw blades.
Asian horror is always divertingly fun, and 999-9999 is no different, making the most out of its concept, even with the “OK, what?” twist ending, and some budgetary constraints that make some of the demises a little… ropey, but as a pretender to Final Destination‘s throne, a solid effort.
Death might sue: A speedster drives his new Ferrari into an out-of-order car wash, which, when the fabric is absent, means scratchy, slashy shards of metal are spinning towards you instead.
Staying in the warmer climes of Thailand, they fused similar ideas with those founding in Battle Royale for 2005 flick, Scared, which sadly wasn’t released with subtitles to discern the finer details of what’s going on.
This time, a busload of students on a field trip crosses a rickety old bridge, which begins to collapse (possibly influencing those who would later pen Final Destination 5), killing a good portion and stranding others on a seemingly deserted island.
As they explore in search of help, they’re systematically done in either by mysterious killers or stumbling into traps designed to skewer them into several pieces. Come the end, it’s something to do with a reality show where being voted off the island is a more permanent fate than usual.
Death might sue: The poor bus driver cops an almost-slapstick log in the face (and through the head) during the bridge collapse.
At the time Death was prepping for its fourth and ‘final’ outing, in 2009, along came Open Graves, which also knocks on Jumanji‘s door for some inspiration, as a group of surfer buddies vacationing in Spain play a cursed boardgame named Mamba, that gives players cryptic messages as to their fate, and promises the winner anything they desire.
Once the game is over, those who were out are really out as they begin dying in a series of bizarre accidents. Naturally, the non-Americans are first to go: One guy falls over a cliff; Another into into a pit of snakes; There’s a car crash, and the looks-obsessed girl ages to, like, 70 overnight.
I saw this one almost a decade ago and remember very little beyond Eliza Dushku and Mike Vogel from the 2003 Texas Chainsaw Massacre over-do, and the rather uninspired twist ending. Play at your own peril.
Death might sue: The poor chap who takes a tumble over the cliff tries to save himself by holding onto – and sliding down – barbed wire, then landing on the rocks – still alive – for the crabs to scuttle out.
Into the present we come, with last year’s severely toned-down, teen friendly PG-13 quickie Wish Upon, which I saw last week.
Claire is a down-on-her-luck high schooler whose dumpster-diving dad finds a strange music box covered in Chinese calligraphy and gifts it to her. A convenient Chinese language course and friend are able to declare it a wishing pot, which grants its keeper seven desires, but undoes them if it’s abandoned or destroyed.
Of course, Claire wishes her high school nemesis would rot and the girl develops a flesh eating disease, but Claire’s beloved dog dies. Then she wishes her boy-crush liked her back, an old man down the street falls in his tub and dies. Then popularity, wealth, mother not to have died = kindly neighbour’s ponytail gets caught in the garbage disposal, friend dying in elevator crash, girl skewered on statue etc, etc.
It’s tame, juvenile, and it takes Claire FOREVER to catch on, but the cast is likeable and it’s reasonably well made for a once-over so long as you’re not expecting the ‘accidents’ to have slow, it-could-happen builds like the FD films offer.
Death might sue: Ryan Phillippe supervising the chainsawing of his tree… from underneath said tree. Duh.
What does this teach us? Thailand represent! But also that it’s reasonably hard to copy the formula, which is why Final Destination dominated this sub-sub-sub-genre for so long. Will they ever make more? Who knows – lemme ask my Haitian nightmare doll…