HOT Day 16: Final Desination

Poster_2Well, I fell short of my 20-scary-movies-in-31-days goal, but only by four days. Happily, that's due in part to a recent glut of freelance work and some other writing-related stuff. I'll give it the ole college try again next year. In the meantime, here's one for the road, and a belated happy Halloween! For my final Halloween-o-Thon entry, I decided to go light -- especially since I anticipated hitting pause repeatedly to run to the door with candy bowl and greetings for the hordes of trick-or-treaters. Turns out, my neighborhood is pretty thin on trick-or-treaters, and now I'm drowning in Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and mini Twixes. This is not the worst problem to have.

Somehow, I've never managed to see a single Final Desination movie. I was its target audience -- a horror-loving teenager in the year 2000 -- but managed not to succumb to the lure of Devon Sawa and a brunette Ali Larter. Now, as a hardened and embittered 36-year-old, I found the movie sufficiently cheesy. The movie's honestly got a weird mix of tones, at once earnest (mostly thanks to Sawa's performance as a kid determined to thwart an already-thwarted death) and hilarious (intentionally? unintentionally? The bus death and Seann William Scott's beheading were both laugh-out-loud moments for me) and a little tense (whatever its issues, the film does build little moments of anxiety pretty effectively).

Amazingly, it also manages to portray one startlingly human moment. Once a handful of French students dodge death, it starts stalking them one by one, beginning with poor Tod (Chad Donella), whose brother died in the plane crash he was also supposed to die in. Toilet water and the thinnest, wiriest shower curtain string conspire to strangle Tod, whose death will look to everyone else like a suicide.

hqdefaultIt's a lengthy-ish sequence as Tod's feet slip and slide against the tub porcelain while he struggles to stand. His floundering lasts long enough for him to glance wildly around the room for a way to free himself. At a particular moment, his eyes dart to the left and he stares at something. The camera assumes his point of view for a moment, and we see what he's looking at:  a couple of stuffed bath toys on a wicker shelf. The stare back at him with their blank eyes and silly grins. They don't offer any hope of escape, but the camera lingers on them a moment.

For all the movie's back-and-forth about death's design and who's going to die and who's going to live, this seemed to me like the moment that got to the heart of what it must be like to actually die violently. Tod is dying; there's nothing he can do about it. And in his last moments, he focuses on something completely useless and mundane. In that moment, I can imagine him thinking, Is this all there is? And the answer is yes, this is all there is. Life -- and death -- is violent and mundane, and also terrible and silly and wonderful and dumb and frustrating and exhilarating, all at the same time.

It was one real moment in an otherwise pretty goofy movie. And kind of a bummer of a note to end this post on. But hey -- fall back, people! Happy daylight savings time!