We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
Killing teenagers on-screen is a bloody cash cow of sorts for Hollywood, however strange our desire to watch such events may be. Before the Final Destination films, the killing of meddling kids was usually up to serial killers like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger. Starting in 2000, director James Wong introduced a new, elusive serial killer to teenagers – Death itself. And instead of being limited by physical capabilities or select iconic weaponry, this villain would be able to destroy its victims in any way it could imagine. Unlike Freddy, this villain would also have the ability to force screws to loosen, or blow something over with a gust of wind.
When deciding upon the “Top 7” death scenes from the franchise’s five films, one must consider a few things: gruesomeness, memorability, and their importance to the entire philosophy of Death, according to the franchise. For some of the moments, even humor can be a positive factor, as certain deaths further remind the audience that the series is aware of what it’s doing. We want dead teenagers, and Final Destination gives them to us in heaping, glossy amounts. And sometimes in 3-D! Premonitions not included.
7. Gymnastic Neck Snap (Final Destination 5)
Recap: Having escaped a tragedy that killed a bunch of people and ruined what looked like a perfectly good bridge, Candice focuses on doing gymnastics. Through an elaborate scheme by Death that doesn’t involve her getting crushed by a creaky A/C vent or having her toe pricked by a rogue screw, Candice snaps her neck and a bunch o’ her bones when she fails to make a decent landing.
Reason: In an age of Tosh.0, this type of death would make an entire “Video Breakdown” segment if someone had recorded it. Good going, FD5, for building up that tension with the loose screw. For some reason, that little piece seemed more daunting than anything else in this strange scene. We’ve seen plenty of gross gymnast landings before via Youtube, with broken bones and lots of screaming, but Final Destination just has to push the limit and make her look like she was stuck in the trash compactor from Star Wars: A New Hope. And for that, Final Destination 5, we thank you.
6. Brian’s Barbecue Blow-up (Final Destination 2)
Recap: After another explosive run-in with death, all seems well. The main survivors of this round of Death-Dodging are sitting down at a barbecue with the Gibbons, a family that helped some of them survive a previous ordeal that ended up with someone getting impaled by flying barb wire. The Gibbons’ son, Brian, is revealed to actually be a survivor of the film’s main tragedy at the very beginning. While everyone’s eating, Brian leaves the picnic table to tend to the grill. The grill explodes, and Brian’s dismembered bloody arm lands in front of his mother.
Reason: Death still has a sense of humor in the Final Destination films, and this is when the big D flirts with a gag that is pretty Troma-esque. Even the lighting of this scene is pretty satirical, with the all-American Gibbons getting conned by Death’s sneaky giggles. This death is so random and pretty unnecessary, but a nice cap to the movie’s ridiculous events (FD2 has one of the best car wrecks in movie history) and a wink that there is some giddy acceptance to the series’ silliness.
5. Burn, Hot Girls, Burn (Final Destination 3)
Recap: “Popular girls” Ashley (Chelan Simmons) and Ashlyn (Crystal Lowe) escape Death’s scheme to kill them on a roller coaster ride, so he/she/it just burns them alive in their tanning booths instead. (Note: In the alternate death scene available on the DVD, they are electrocuted.)
Reason: Aside from making funerals seem irrelevant, the Final Destination films have a certain fixation on preying on the “questionable” factors of certain health procedures, like acupuncture or laser eye surgery (as with Final Destination 5). While tanning might not be the most safe thing to do to one’s skin, this movie makes the act of skin coloring feel like a literal death trap, as two girls who easily represent this movie’s demographic are punished for both escaping Death and wanting to be a darker shade. Not only does it feature the fear of irresponsible tanning salon employees, but also that you’ll literally char your body with such technology, or even get zapped by its inauthentic ways to create light.
4. Drop Dead Bus Stop (Final Destination)
Recap: After meeting with recurring mortician William Bludworth (played by Tony Todd), the frazzled teens of the franchise’s first tragedy are unsure of whether to accept the spooky man’s idea that Death is trying to kill everyone who got off the plane. Terry (Amanda Detmer), is especially in denial, and says “You can all just drop f**king dead” before slammed by a random bus.
Reason: However sudden this may be, it’s an important death to the franchise for its introduction of Death’s quickness and unpredictability (at least, when Death in the films was unpredictable). It’s also the first moment in which we experience the series’ winking sense of humor. This type of death was given a failed resurrection in The Final Destination, where it was equally as funny but not as poignant.
3. “An Airbag Didn’t Save My Life” (Final Destination 2)
Recap: Kat (Keegan Connor Tracy) dodges death a couple of times, even when a sharp pipe impales her headrest in her crashed SUV. Death chuckles to itself when a firefighter sets off her airbag when he uses the jaws of life, which sends her head through the shattered pipe and kills her.
Reason: Yee-ouch. Talk about bad luck, or Death being a sick individual with more irony than a conclusion to a Woody Allen movie. This is a good example of the franchise’s deathly shenanigans leading to the audience to a level of feeling uncertain as to what’s going to happen next. We see the sharp pipe, we see the firefighter, and we’re not sure how the math is going to connect. But things do connect, unfortunately (or, fortunately, I suppose) its back-of-head to protruding-sharp-pipe.
2. Nail Gun Fail (Final Destination 3)
Recap: Doomed goth Erin (Alexz Johnson) saves her companion from being crushed in the back of a hardware store, but has her heroics punished by falling back into a nail gun which shoots nails directly into the back of her head and her arm (which she raises in reflex, I assume).
Reason: Dying would suck, getting your head sliced in half by a rogue piece of metal would suck (Final Destination), but having your head turned into a point-blank firing range for a possessed Binford tool nail gun has to be the pinnacle of sucktitude. This death earns near-top honors for its grotesque quality, and it’s general factor of looking extremely painful.
1. Shower Strangle (Final Destination)
Recap: Having avoided the disaster of Flight 180, Tod (Chad Donella) is the first one to be checked off of Death’s list. Tod has an unfortunate incident in the shower, in which he slips near a bathtub and is strangled by evil shower lining. The characters think his death is a suicide.
Reason: It’s not outlandish to declare that series went downhill after the death of Tod. While there have been a couple of deaths in the entire five films of Final Destination that have tangible horror, such a concept of a truly anguished death is nearly abandoned by the series. Here, with both good acting and even eye make-up, Tod’s horrific struggle is extremely pronounced, to a level that could even be considered disturbing. There’s hardly any usage of the special effects that have made numerous other killings in the series phony and even often humorous. This is when Death’s moves felt plausible; when the Grim Reaper was actually grim.