Reviewed by Nicholas D'Amico
Rating: 8.5 Beans
efore you go any further, let me warn you of something: this review is one big spoiler, as all of my reviews are, so if you are idiot enough to want to see this piece of crap movie, stop reading right now.
If, however, you are smart and plan to skip it, or worse, have already seen it, read on.
I thought that after suffering though the intestine twisting agony that was I KNOW/I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER it was safe to get a modern scary movie and not feel like I got a rusty pipe hammered up my butt after paying for it, but once again, I was wrong.
I actually had cause for hope with this one, though. It was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, two writers for THE X FILES, and they also penned one of my favorite episodes, "Home". The one with the Peacock Family, remember? What a classic!
So I went into this one hopefully, thinking it would be at the very least halfway decent. The fact that I'd never heard of anyone in the cast other than Kristen Cloke (Mrs. Morgan) and the fact that the leading man was a MAJOR dork (but I should have known! I mean, with a name like Devon Sawa… I have only myself to blame) should have tipped me off, but no, old Nick is the eternal optimist and he just dove right the hell into this one not knowing the pool was shallow, that all of that perceived depth was just a trick of the light.
The film opens with main dork Alex Browning (the aforementioned Devon Sawa) packing for a senior trip to Paris, France. We get an inkling of what a superstitious little pussy he is when he refuses to tear the claim tag off his father's luggage, explaining that since that flight didn't crash, it's a token of good luck (has ANYONE ever heard of that particular superstition before this?!). Mom, of course, dismisses that as silly and rips the tag off the handle, thereby dooming the entire Senior French class to a fiery death (not all that bad an idea, when you stop to think about it… too bad the cheerleaders and the Glee Club didn't go as well). His father handles all the exposition about Dorkboy, telling us he's 17, going to Paris, and has his WHOLE LIFE AHEAD OF HIM. (This is known as foreshadowing.) That night, he has trouble sleeping.
After a WAY too clever segue, we get to the airport and meet the rest of the cast: Tough guy (read asshole) of the group Carter Horton (Kerr Smith); his Buffy lookalike girlfriend, Terry Chaney (Amanda Detmer); the outcast weird girl that no one pays attention to and always reads "heavy" books, Clear Rivers (Ali Larter, and no, that character name is not a misprint); one of the teachers accompanying the group, Ms. Valerie Lewton (Kristen Cloke); Dorkboy's best friend and supposed comedy relief Tod Waggner (Chad E. Donella); and borderline retard Billy Hitchcock (Sean William Scott). Notice that some of the characters have the last names of famous directors! How CLEVER!!!!
At the ticket counter, he finds out that his birthday is the same number as his departure time, which is yet another bad omen (in Samoa, I believe). During some unfunny toilet humor, Alex and Tod are sitting in the bathroom and Alex notices that John Denver is on the Muzak. He muses that Denver died in a plane crash, yet more foreshadowing and making the movie somewhat topical. (Just wait until he finds out that the in-flight movie is SURVIVE.)
Alex then sees two girls with really nice butts walking down a long hallway towards a bright light (yet even MORE foreshadowing!!!!) and when he gets on the plane, sees a crying infant AND a spastic young man. When he trades places with the two foxy girls and sits down, he finds his tray table latch is broken (what the hell this has to do with ANYTHING is beyond me, but there it is). The plane takes off and almost immediately has trouble. That smoothes out and then, just when everybody relaxes, the plane has REAL trouble, shaking and catching fire, the side of the plane blowing out and sucking people out and then the whole thing catches fire and as Alex goes up in flames SURPRISE!!! he wakes up and it's just a dream! He awakens to the foxy girls asking him to change seats. Completely freaked out, he takes the other seat and when the tray table latch breaks off in his hand, he freaks out and starts screaming about the plane blowing up. For some unknown reason Carter starts selling woof tickets to Dorkboy and the two of them, along with Terry, Ms. Lewton, Tod, and Billy get thrown off the plane. Clear suddenly decides to get off too, and follows them out. While they're all sitting in the terminal trying to figure out what just happened, the plane takes off and blows up in midair, killing everyone on board.
The group then gets questioned by people from the FAA and two agents from the FBI, Agent Weine (Daniel Roebuck) and Agent Schreck (Roger Guenveur Smith. Schreck, incidentally, is German for "death". This has nothing at all to do with the plot, but I figured you should know that in case you ever talk to a German and get stuck trying to think of the word for death. You'll thank me later, believe me). After they get questioned by the two FBI agents (Ms. Lewton is the only one suffering from survivor's guilt, from the look of it), they are all met by their loving and spooked parents, except for Clear, who, from the looks of it, gets dropped off about a mile and a half from her house in a rainstorm.
Dorkboy goes home and watches the crash news on CNN. The storm continues and as he watches from the window, he sees lighting strike the street. Not on the street, but the actual concrete of the street.
Dissolve to the memorial service for the dead students as the survivors alternately weep and act flaky (Ms. Lewton), act like assholes (Carter), act like a brainless loser (Billy), try to come off as cool and sympathetic (Alex). We find out here that Alex and Tod haven't seen each other in a while and that when this whole thing blows over, they'll party again. Clear walks up to Alex and thanks him for saving her life. After this, Tod, of all people, gets up in front of the assembled crowd and gives a eulogy.
That night, Death makes a personal appearance at Tod's house . He makes his presence known by making the toilet leak while Tod is sitting on it (WHY he has to be sitting on it while this happens is beyond me, but at least the boy is regular). While Tod takes a dump, Alex is at home paging through PENTHOUSE magazine. As Tod cuts himself shaving, trims his nose hair, and listens to John Denver (gasp) on the radio, the water leaking from the toilet starts following him around the bathroom.
Alex, still paging though the rag, sees an owl outside his window and flips the magazine at it. The owl takes off and the magazine gets caught in the fan and shredded, a scrap of a page landing in his lap. He turns it over and it says "TOD", a portion of the word TODAY (which explains why Tod's name is spelled with only one D). From this Alex posits that Tod is about to die, and what do you know? He's right! This is the point in the film where we get treated to the first of the Rube Goldberg-like deaths of one of the main characters.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the term I just used, Rube Goldberg was an American cartoonist that drew incredibly complicated inventions to do ordinary tasks, like pulling your blanket over you when you got in bed or an automatic napkin for wiping your chin. You can see examples of his work at http://www.rube-goldberg.com/rg2idx.htm It's a lot more entertaining than this movie.
Tod walks to the bath and begins to take his mother's under things off the retractable cord in the stall so he can shower. the water changes course and gets under his bare feet. He slips on it and falls into the shower stall, clotheslining himself on the cord, which breaks off the wall, wraps itself around his neck several times, and begins to strangle him. He can't get his footing since he spilled a bottle of shampoo in the bathtub and it's all over his hands and feet. This drying line that he's hanging from must be made of piano wire since it doesn't break, and after struggling for way too long, he finally dies. At this point, the water that leaked out of the toilet and made him fall mysteriously gets sucked back into the commode.
Alex arrives too late and sees Tod being carted out on a gurney and the FBI guys nearby. Tod's father, rocket scientist that he is, then tells Alex that he (Alex) made Tod feel so much guilt about leaving his (Tod's) brother on the plane that he hanged himself. Clear is also hanging around.
The next day, Alex visits Clear and he finds out why no one hangs around with her as she shows him her metal sculptures. Clear confronts Alex with the fact that she felt what he felt on the plane. Alex figures out that maybe, just maybe, Tod is the first of the survivors to bite the big one but won't be the last. I should point out that Clear, unlike the weird girls that no one hangs with in real life, is quite the babe. If Alex had half of his shit together, he'd tell her that he'd foreseen the two of them bumping uglies and get a little action before kissing the Grim Reaper on the lips. The two of them decide to pay Tod one last visit.
That night they break into the funeral home and while checking out Tod's corpse, they meet the strangely-unruffled-by-their-illicit-presence Undertaker (Tony Todd). The Undertaker then explains exactly what's happening here: our lives and everything in them are nothing more than a part of Death's sadistic design to lead us to the grave. Alex then wonders if you figure out the design, can you cheat Death? The Undertaker answers that Death has a new design for them, and if he wants to cheat it again by figuring it out, go ahead. But by doing that he'll piss off Death yet again, and that's a bad thing. How he knows this from preparing corpses for burial is beyond me, but since it's The Candyman, you can believe what he says.
Clear and Alex then go to a sidewalk café and start figuring out how to beat Death by recognizing omens. As they talk, Alex sees a bus pass in the window but doesn't see it on the street next to him. He blows the vision off and babbles some crap about how if they can figure out Death's design by paying attention to the omens they receive they'll survive this. Clear thinks he's full of it and says so just as Carter and Terry drive by and his superbad Nova SS. Carter spots the two of them and drives on, then pulls a u-turn, almost hitting Billy, who's on a bike, and pulls back to the sidewalk café to sell Alex some more woof tickets. Ms. Lewton then comes out of nowhere and all of the survivors are gathered together again. The fact that Ms. Lewton is moving out of town is established and a big argument starts. Terry tells all of them that she's sick of this crap and tells Carter to drop dead just before she steps out in front of and gets splattered (literally) by a bus doing what looks to be about 120 mph on a city street.
Everybody seems to get over it pretty easily with the help of Alka-Seltzer and a shower, however, and while watching TV, Alex sees the improbable explanation for the plane's explosion. It involves a series of explosions taking place on the plane directly over the seats vacated by the survivors. Alex figures from this that since the first explosion took place over Tod's seat and the next one took place over Ms. Lewton's, this is Death's design and she must be next. He beats feet for her house but she spots him outside "checking her tires" and calls the Effa-Bee-Eye, who swoop down and pick him up. As they question him and as Alex explains his "Death's Design" theory, Ms. Lewton puts a John Denver record ("mom's favorite") on, so we know what's going to happen to her.
Now pay attention, because this is very complex and there will be a quiz later. This whole ridiculous death scene starts with Ms. Lewton filling a tea kettle with water. As she wipes off the water that spilled on the outside of it, we see the shadow of Death swoop by. This is unnecessary, since "Rocky Mountain High" is playing in the background, but it's good for a dramatic stab of music. She sees it and whips around in panic but sees nothing. This woman is so hypersensitive to everything around her that the fact that she doesn't notice what is about to happen is a slap in the face to everyone in the audience. She walks to the stove which has, right next to it on the counter, a butcher block knife set where the knives are stored, handles out, in a big block of wood. She drapes the towel she used to dry the tea kettle over the handles of the knives. When she puts the kettle on, the gas burner goes out so she lights it with a match.
The FBI releases Alex and he heads for Ms. Lewton's place. After he leaves, we find out that Agent Schreck is beginning to believe Alex's theory.
Back at the Lewton place, she pours herself a cup of tea in a Mt. Abraham High School mug, which flips her out and causes her to dash the tea all over the floor. Since this makes no sense at all, she comforts herself by reminding herself that she's about to move out of town and that "You're out of here. Pretty soon you'll be gone." How true!
She then goes to the freezer and pulls out a bottle of vodka, throws a couple of ice cubes into the mug, and pours herself a drink. The mug mysteriously forms a CGI hairline crack and starts to leak. As she walks into the living room to resume packing, she is dripping vodka everywhere. Then this supposedly aware woman drips it into the vent holes on top of her computer monitor, where it drips down into the circuitry. The monitor crackles and begins to smoke and when she leans forward to examine it, the tube naturally explodes and drives a nice big shard of glass into her jugular. She yanks it out and starts stumbling around the room, spurting blood and causing the turntable arm to skip back and replay "Rocky Mountain High".
Alex, walking home, passes a guy burning leaves and somehow gets the notion that Ms. Lewton is in trouble from the embers dancing around his face.
Meanwhile, Ms. Lewton is stumbling back into the kitchen still spurting blood. Behind her, the monitor explodes yet again and the ashes start the spilled vodka on fire (?!?) which then follow the trail into the kitchen, right behind Ms. Lewton. Somehow, once it reaches the stove, the whole thing goes up in flames and ignites the open bottle of vodka, causing a fair sized explosion that knocks her to the floor. For some unknown reason she strains to reach the towel draped over the knives and succeeds in not only getting the towel, but pulling the whole damn knife set down on herself. The butcher knife goes directly into her sternum, impaling her.
Alex, who's been standing outside during all of this, runs in and finds her in the kitchen, still alive. As her tries to help her, the shelf above the counter collapses, the stove explodes, and that knocks over a chair that hits the hilt of the butcher knife and sends it the rest of the way into Ms. Lewton, finishing her off. Alex, stupid shit that he is, then grabs the knife, pulls it out of her, throws it on the floor and runs out just before the whole house explodes. Billy just happens to be pedaling by on his bike when the house explodes and sees Alex run off.
Later, Agents Schreck and Weine are talking to Clear, trying to locate Alex. Billy then almost gets run over by Carter as Clear walks up and we find out that she asked the two of them to meet her at the memorial so they can find Alex to ascertain who's next on the list. Carter asks why he should be there and Clear explains that the FBI is following her and this way, they won't be able to. Yeah, okay.
They all three go to the park and she finds Alex instantly. We get some exposition about Clear here, finding out that her father was killed in a robbery and her mother deserted her, but somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight, there's a dimension where her family is all together and their dead friends are flying in the sky, and there's a magical place with unicorns, cute little dragons named Yoshi, and you can't let the fact that everyone around you is being killed in bizarre ways get you down.
They pile into Carter's car (I have to wonder if the fact that the dickhead in this movie's name being Carter has anything to do with their time on THE X-FILES?) and they plan to hide Alex at Clear's father's cabin in the woods. After a little more exposition, Carter asks who's next and when Alex says it doesn't matter, Carter, being a moron, decides he's going to die on his own terms, floors the gas pedal and starts driving like an idiot, finally parking on train tracks. Alex gets a vision of an oncoming train and a torn seat belt. After a non-suspenseful scene with Carter suddenly coming to the decision that it's not his time, he finds the doors are locked and his seat belt is jammed (if he wanted to die, what the hell was he doing wearing a seat belt in the first place?) and Alex manages to pull him out of the car just before the train hits it and cuts it in half.
An aside here. Why is that in movies that when a train hits a car, it never stops but keeps on going?
After Carter is rescued, Billy freaks out and starts screaming about how Carter is next and they should stay away from him and how he's a dead man. While he's doing this, a piece of metal from the car that is under the train gets swept up by the vacuum of the wheels, tossed under the wheels, thrown out from under the wheels and cuts Billy's head off above the jaw. The headless but jawed body drops into the bushes while Carter flips out, Clear thinks... well, clearly, and Alex goes on with his BS about Death's design.
At the cabin, Alex is deathproofing the place with rope, duct tape, and wine corks. When he finishes he sits down to eat a can of devilled ham (this movie is just chock full of clever touches, isn't it?) when the wind blowing under the door sets off another Rube Goldberg thing: the wind knocks over the paper bag full of garbage, an empty can rolls out and knocks over a fishing pole standing in the corner. The fishhook snags on the door handle of the closet, pulling it open. Alex leaps to his feet and stops the door from opening, thereby preventing something (we never quite find out what) from happening. All we see is a little blade thing punch through the door close to where his face is. Now, if he'd just remained seated, this thing would have never even come close to him, but I guess we weren't supposed to consider that. He figures that Death wanted him to get tetanus from a rusty fishhook and then starts passing out woof tickets, telling Death that he's got it beaten.
Meanwhile, Clear sneaks up on the FBI guys and tells them she's not turning Alex in. At the cabin, Alex, through some convoluted logic, sees lightning in a vision and figures out Clear is next. Just then, back at Clear's house, lightning hits a wire and it falls in her driveway. Back at the cabin, the FBI pulls up and Alex leads them on a non-exciting chase back to Clear's. Clear, meanwhile, is trying to save her stupid dog from attacking the live wire in the driveway right next to the above ground pool. An umbrella-like clothes hanger breaks out of the ground and just misses Clear's head before impaling the pool, causing all of the water to spill out. Clear jumps on the trellis on the side of the house and climbs it to her window as Alex, who's being chased through the woods, falls down a hill, nearly impales his face on a protruding branch, has a tree fall on him, and gets pinned facedown in a shallow pool of water.
Clear is running through her house with all of the sockets trying to shoot lightning bolts at her as Alex finally struggles free of the tree. When he reaches her house (Before the FBI and Sheriff's department, in spite of the fact that they are driving and he is running), he finds Clear trapped in her car. The live wire has fallen across the hood, killing the engine, and one of her metal sculptures has fallen over, piercing a can of paint thinner, which is now trickling towards the car. Alex tries to use a shovel to knock the wire off the car, but the shovel gets pulled out of his hands, flies into the garage and knocks the nozzle off an acetylene tank which then falls over and shoots under the car, lodging there. The wire then sets the paint remover trail on fire which in turn sets the acetylene on fire. Realizing the car is going to blow up, Alex grabs the live wire, pulling it off, and Clear jumps clear (snort) before the car blows up. Clear, suddenly in love with him, begs him not to die as the FBI agents come to the rescue.
Six months later, Clear (now a blonde), Carter (suddenly a nice guy) and Alex (still a dork) are sitting in a sidewalk café in Paris, now friends for having survived this piece of crap movie. They talk about how great life is and they won't waste it now but Dorkboy is still obsessing over "Death's design" and when Carter points out that Alex is still next, some French guy with a guitar starts singing "Rocky Mountain High", Alex notices meat is being delivered to the place in the middle of the night, and a bunch of other Rube Goldberg like crap happens (you'd think by now that Death would get the idea that all of this convoluted shit doesn't work and just drop a safe on his head). Alex freaks out and tries to separate himself from the other two. He almost gets hit by a speeding bus, which then hits a light pole, flipping it into the air where it knocks over a huge sign on the roof of the café that then swings down on its retaining wires and almost hits Alex, but Carter leaps on him, knocking him out of the way. Afterwards, Carter stands and says, "I told you you were next!" Alex answers, "It skipped me!" and Carter asks, "So who's next?!" just before the sign swings back down and kills him.
The end. And I swear to GOD I did not make any of this up.
So what, exactly, is wrong with this movie? Well, let's see. Apart from unlikable characters, unrealistic reactions, insipid dialogue, incredibly ridiculous and complicated deaths, bad writing and poor direction, not a damn thing. Why did I write this review again?… Oh, yeah, that's right! because THE MOVIE SUCKED.
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