October 8, 2012

FINAL DESTINATION Series: Quality Father-Daughter Time

Starring Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Seann William Scott, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Bobby Campo, Nicholas D'Agosto, Molly Harper, Miles Fisher & Tony Todd. Various Directors. (2000-2011).

Not too long ago, my youngest daughter, Lucy, celebrated her ninth birthday. She invited some friends over to the house. Accompanied by their parents, the kids engaged in the usual party activities: games, prizes, all the cake, ice cream and candy they could ingest before running around crazily from the sugar rush. And of course, there were presents.

Lucy got lots of Barbies, coloring books & Polly Pockets from her friends, gifts probably picked out by parents at the last minute before coming to the party (like we always do whenever our kids are invited to one). Lucy was gracious and made sure to thank each of her friends. She hadn't yet opened the gifts from the family. We were planning on doing that when the party was over and everyone left, but after she gave us the Puss-in-Boots face, we relented and allowed her to open just one.

She selected the single gift I chose, a little last-minute surprise I picked up on the way home from work the day before...a box of all five Final Destination movies.

You should have seen the looks I got from the moms who chose to stay for the party, especially since most of them knew I was a teacher. I knew what they were thinking...

That's no gift for an impressionable nine-year-old...So much for my kid ever coming here for a sleepover...What's in the other packages, a water bong and a bag of weed?

For those of you thinking the same thing, don't worry, I'm saving the bong & weed for her twelfth birthday.

Despite the confused faces of her friends expecting Strawberry Shortcake videos, and a few parent scowls of disapproval, Lucy was ecstatic. She's been my horror buddy on weekends for a couple of years, and we'd already watched the Parts 1-3 in the Final Destination series together, as well as Part 5. She'd been hounding me to see the fourth one (simply titled The Final Destination), which I did not own because it's really shitty. I tried to tell her this, but she still wanted to see it for herself. Unfortunately, the only place I found it was in a boxed set with all the other ones. So I snatched it up, confident she'd be amused.

And she was, because she loves these movies, and they all have the exact same plot. Each one opens with a spectacular disaster that would make Irwin Allen proud, but a few characters manage to cheat death because our hero has a premonition beforehand. Death doesn't like this, so he invisibly stalks them one by one, arranging elaborate, chain-event 'accidents' for these poor saps. Someone dies about every ten minutes or so until there's no one left to kill. End of movie.

Lucy & I watch them late at night after Mom's asleep, and our typical conversion goes something like this whenever someone's about to die:

Lucy: Ooh, Daddy...what's gonna happen? (She occasionally covers her eyes, but not often)
Dad: I'm not gonna tell you. Just watch, honey.
Lucy (curling up and clutching her blanket): Is he gonna get away?
Dad: You'll see.
(Nasty-ass death ensues)
Lucy: That's gross. How'd they do that?

Though they are plenty-bloody, the last thing the Final Destination movies are is scary (they're really kinda funny in a twisted way). They're more like gory Road Runner cartoons than horror films. Like the hapless Wile E. Coyote, we know nearly every single character is doomed. The only real suspense is wondering how they die, and if you've ever seen one of these movies, you know the deaths are elaborate, ridiculous and extreme, like psychotic Rube Goldberg concoctions.

Can you match each picture with the Final Destination movie it appears in? Maybe you should ask yourself if it even matters.

More importantly, these movies may not be art, but they are fun (well, me & Lucy think they are...my wife thinks we're sick), with simple plots even an eight-year-old can appreciate without suffering a sleepless night in fear of a similar fate. Sure, the movies are gross, but most kids love gross shit, even the gory gross shit, especially if presented as cartoonishly as in Final Destination. Those mothers at Lucy's party, eyeballing me in disapproval, are living in denial if they think otherwise about their own kids.

You know what really scares kids? When they see horrors which happen to characters close to their own age...the flying monkeys attacking Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, the child-eating tree in Poltergeist, the kid on an inflatable raft who's gobbled by a shark in Jaws, the mother's death in Bambi.

The shit that happens in the Final Destination movies is outside their own scope of reality, because the victims are all bland teenagers & twenty-somethings. Kids don't have any connection to characters like this, just like they have no idea what's its like to be a gangly coyote whose efforts to secure a meal results in failure every time. Plus, while the villain is a supernatural one, it isn't the devil or a vengeful spirit (which some kids are brought up to believe are real); nor is it a real-life monster getting off on torturing innocent people. I think most kids are plenty smart enough to know that Death, as an conscious entity, doesn't exist. Well, my kids are, anyway.

As far as Lucy is concerned, she knows the Final Destination movies are just that...movies meant to make you squirm in your seat in suspense, or go "eeeew" at an elaborately-staged demise. None of them have ever given her nightmares, though she did leave the room during the laser-eye-surgery fuck-up in Part 5 (but, hey...whose isn't squeamish about eye trauma?).

Anyway, long after the birthday party was over and Mom went to bed, Lucy, ever the night-owl, pestered me into watching FD4. Even though I hated the fourth one, I agreed, only covering her eyes during a sleazy, sweaty sex scene (something not present in any of the others). I'm sorry, no matter how old my daughters get, I'll never be comfortable watching that kinda shit with them.

Afterwards, she agreed that FD4 was stupid, then asked if it was too late to watch Part 2 again (our personal favorite).

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