I wasn’t a fan of this, despite its enjoyable, blackly comic enthusiasm for scenes of elaborate death. The arrival of New Line’s special edition DVD enticed me to take a second look, and I’m still not a fan — but I appreciate the visual effects work even more than I did the first time through, thanks to the documentary features that underscore the extensive use of practical effects (that’s as opposed to computer-generated effects), such as carefully constructed dummies filled with disturbingly convincing blood and organs, that went into creating the wantonly bloody punctuation for the demise of each in a string of doomed lead characters.
Unfortunately, this is a case of a movie that gets more convoluted and thus less involving as it goes along. Specifically, nothing the filmmakers can do could possibly match the elaborately conceived freeway pile-up that opens the film. This is where the DVD really shines, the huge logs that roll off the back of a semi truck hitting the highway — with an ominous subwoofer thump that’s scary as anything — before bouncing and smashing a state trooper through the back window of his cruiser. Director David Ellis’s background is in stuntwork and second-unit direction, and his love for gadgets that send cars tumbling sideways across several lanes of traffic is fully indulged here, with weirdly satisfying results. The rest of the movie isn’t exactly stupid, but there’s a detailed, quasi-mystical explanation for the supernatural goings-on that grows tedious, and the cast of standard-issue characters played by standard-issue actors doesn’t exactly encourage you to give a shit about what happens next — unless you’re the kind of grisly fuck who gets a cathartic jolt out of images of violent death.
OK, I’m guilty as charged. One of the supplements on this DVD goes into a tiny bit of detail on the Theatre du Grand Guignol, which staged live tableaux of unspeakable horror, complete with copious amounts of splatter, for 65 years’ worth of Parisian audiences before it closed in 1962 — ironically or not, that’s just about the time American filmmakers, emboldened by the success of Psycho, began dabbling in gore, with Herschell Gordon Lewis’s famed Blood Feast coming out in 1963. (Lewis is interviewed on the DVD.) The documentary dwells on gore, and its historical precedents, because Final Destination 2 is one of the goriest American movies in recent memory. No apologia necessary here, guys. It’s anybody’s guess how this one got an R rating from the MPAA, but I’ve got to admit that I’m glad it did. When contemporary filmmakers seem prone to overuse CGI and accidentally sap any appearance of realism from their “action” films, the visceral sensations of shock, disgust and amusement delivered simultaneously by something like Final Destination 2 can seem valuable and cathartic. (An amusing extra feature shows footage of viewers of the film, who are wired to machines measuring their respiratory, perspiratory, and brain functions, as they react to key sequences.) But, crazy pile-up and occasional splatter aside, Final Destination 2‘s insistently relaxed jokiness makes bank by keeping the screws off the audience — and thus minimizing its potential impact.