The fourth installment in the Final Destination series is coming out this Friday, with more desperate but extremely good-looking people trying to cheat Death.
The first movie in 2000 (from director James Wong) offered a fresh take on the horror genre with a story of a bunch of teens who heed a premonition about a plane crash, only to find themselves later picked off one by one in bizarre accidents.
Subsequent installments ran with the premise and piled up the bodies with "kills" that are increasingly complicated and surprising: about 24 so far in the first three movies. David R. Ellis, who directed the second movie, returns for the fourth with a story about a guy who has a premonition about a horrific accident at a racetrack, persuades his friends to leave, then watches as they die horribly one by one.
The real joy of the films, of course, is the artful, gruesome demises. They're all good in their own way, but some stand head and shoulders (or head separated from shoulders) above the rest. We've picked what we think are the best of the best.
1. Tanning Bed Barbie-cue (Final Destination 3)
Setup: Among the most talked-about violent cinematic deaths ever is the scene in which the two perky bubbleheads Ashlyn Halperin (Crystal Lowe) and Ashley Freund (Chelan Simmons) slip nearly nude into their tanning-bed coffins.
Critical props: "Slushy Totally Cool" cup, tanning lotion tube.
Musical accompaniment: "Love Rollercoaster," complete with the chilling scream of the woman who was supposedly murdered while recording the song—a longtime urban legend.
2. Caught Doing Yourself In the Tub (Final Destination)
Setup: Tod Waggner (Chad Donella) is the best friend of Alex Browning (Devon Sawa), the kid who has the premonition of the plane crash, and he's the first of the survivors to be picked off by getting strangled in the shower.
Critical props: Dripping water, clothesline, nail scissors.
3. Eyeing the Prize (Final Destination 2)
Setup: He just won the lottery, he just bought a new car, he just avoided dying in a fiery crash, but it's still a bad day for Evan Lewis (David Paetkau). Returning to his apartment with newly acquired booty, he listens to answering-machine messages from women who have heard about his lottery winnings before thing start to go downhill rapidly.
Critical props: There are a lot of eye references. He steps on the eye of a stuffed animal as he walks up the stairs carrying his new iMac. There's an eye magnet on his fridge, and a doll in the hall has only one eye. Other key props: microwave oven, gold watch, garbage disposal, frying pan.
Musical accompaniment: "Vitamin" by Incubus, which also has "eye"-themed lyrics: "My open eyes see ..., " "The closed eye of the sleep machine," etc.
4. Nailing the Goth Chick (Final Destination 3)
Setup: Sassy, wisecracking Erin Ulmer (Alexz Johnson) works at a Home Depot-like hardware store, which producer/co-writer Glen Morgan once said is the most dangerous place on earth. Machines malfunction, wood planks get knocked down, and everything seems aimed at her boyfriend, Ian (Kris Lemche), when Erin slips, falls and finds out why nail guns have to be registered.
Critical props: Duh. Nail gun.
5. On Track, But a Little Over the Top (Final Destination)
Setup: Seann William Scott is a little over the top as the funnyman among the survivors, but the actor said he jumped at the chance to play William "Billy" Hitchcock, whose last name is an homage to Scott's favorite director, Al. Billy, fearful of Death's design, loses it at a rail crossing and rants. In fact, he really loses his head.
Critical props: Train, metal shard.
6. Pipe-Cleaned and Cubed (Final Destination 2)
Setup: A delightful double-header involves two of the most unpleasant characters: Rory Peters (Jonathan Cherry)—a cocaine-snorting lowlife who asks the visionary, Kimberly (A.J. Cook), to clean the porn out of his place after he dies—and Kat Jennings (Keegan Connor Tracy), an uptight, prissy complainer. She finds out that airbags aren't always lifesavers, and he discovers a new use for barbed wire.
Critical props: Jaws of life, cigarette, airbag, barbed wire fence.
7. Look Ma, No Cavities (Final Destination 2)
Setup: The youngest victim of all the Destination films is 15-year-old Tim Carpenter (James Kirk). He survives a massive freeway accident only to find himself in one of the scariest places ever: the dentist's office. Pigeons smack the window while the dentist drills. A plastic fish threatens to choke him, and electricity sparks where an aquarium is leaking. But that's not the worst part ...
Critical props: Pigeons, plastic fish, aquarium, plate glass.
8. The Last Laugh (Final Destination 2)
Setup: More shockingly funny than gory, this classic scene from the end of the second movie starts serenely ... until young Brian Gibbons (Noel Fisher) reveals that he also narrowly escaped Death. Or did he? ...
Critical props: Shish kebab skewer, propane barbecue.
Musical accompaniment: "My Name is Death," Jude Christodal