After one of them experiences a powerful vision, a group of students leave an airplane that goes on to crash, killing everyone onboard. But after the accident, strange accidents carry off members of the group, suggesting that Death, or Fate, may be holding a grudge.
Given the relative disappointment of the final part of the Scream trilogy, you'd have been forgiven for thinking that the cycle of wry, ironic teen-based horror flicks that Craven and his Munch-masked monster kicked off had utterly run out of steam. Final Destination, however, seems to demonstrate that there's life in the old sub-genre yet, as it's certainly the most inventive, funny and downright enjoyable Friday nighters ever since.
Unusually, Final Destination is a horror flick without a monster. After they miraculously escape an air-crash that dispatches the majority of their classmates to the almighty, Alex Browning (movie buffs will already have noticed the curious pattern of the characters' surnames - they're all classic horror directors) and friends are methodically hunted down by a presumably pissed off "fate" that intended them to exit this mortal coil via the explosive qualities of aviation fuel and the non-negotiable nature of gravity.
This set-up allows screenwriters Glen Morgan, James Wong and Jeffrey Reddick an excuse to deliver a cascade of deliriously overwrought fatal "accidents": slippery floors and shower attachments do for one; scrap metal and an approaching train produce a devastating death for another, while a sequence involving a boiling kettle, block of knives, leaky vodka glass and an exploding computer plays like an advert made by the Royal Society For The Prevention Of Accidents.
First time director Wong (who previously directed episodes of The X-Files) flawlessly judges the shocks' timing - one particularly nasty road accident will leave audiences gasping with surprise - and, in the opening 15 minutes of the film, delivers the most devastating air crash sequence ever put on film (easily beating Alive!, the previous holder of the title).
The cast, many of whom are graduates of the late '90's tidal wave of teen flicks (Ali Larter was the wearer of the infamous whipped cream bikini in Varsity Blues, while Seann William Scott was teen lothario Stifler in American Pie), are a further indication of the sheer depth of talent now knocking around Hollywood in search of decent scripts.
The good natured carnage is only occasionally let down by a bog-standard chase finale and a script that occasionally feels as though it's being delivered by Austin Powers' Basil Exposition.