Final Destination is an iconic 00s horror franchise with five installments between 2000-2011 and a sixth film following first responders planned for 2022. The franchise’s use of elaborate deaths and Rube Goldberg machines were seen in later films like the Saw and Escape Room movies. Final Destination stands out as a frightening horror movie whose villain (Death) is in fact after everyone — including members of the audience.
In the original Final Destination (2000) Alex Browning boards Flight 180 for Paris but panics and leaves after he has a premonition of the plane exploding after takeoff. He and the other survivors who exited the plan then discover that Death isn’t happy they escaped his plan and they begin to die in the order they would have died in the plane accident. A rule is established: if someone intervenes and saves someone from Death, the pattern skips that person and moves on to the next person on the list. Still, the film ends with Death getting everyone but Alex (who is killed off screen after the movie ends) and Clear Rivers, the final girl who lives to tell the story to the cast members of the sequel before being killed.
Writer Jeffrey Reddick originally wrote then-titled Flight 180 as a spec script for The X-Files before he was advised to turn it into a feature film script. He sold the finished screenplay to New Line Cinema where it was reworked by James Wong and Glen Morgan. Reddick’s inspiration was a real life event where a woman’s mother warned her not to take a doomed flight home from Hawaii.
I was actually flying home to Kentucky and I read this story about a woman who was on vacation in Hawaii and her mom called her and said ‘Don’t take the flight tomorrow, I have a really bad feeling about it’… She switched flights and the plane that she would have been on crashed. I thought, that’s creepy- what if she was supposed to die on that flight?Jeffrey Reddick, ‘Final Destination’: Not So Final After All!
After Final Destination 2 Reddick stopped writing for the franchise and subsequent films have been written (and directed) by a handful of other filmmakers. While those filmmakers have interesting stories about real life events (for instance, a fear of LASIK surgery) that have influenced the Final Destination movies, they are less based on real events than Reddick’s initial inspiration. However, there are some pretty creepy times it seems the film’s premise — that Death comes back for those who escape his plan — might be true:
- An aspiring sportscaster named Jessica Redfield narrowly escaped a mass shooting at a Toronto mall in June 2012 due to a “strange feeling” that made her decide to eat outside. A month later Jessica was killed when James Holmes opened fire at an Aurora, Colorado showing of The Dark Knight Rises.
- A woman who worked at a restaurant in the World Trade Center, Hilda Yolanda Mayol, escaped the peril of September 11, 2001 only to die in a plane crash on November 12, 2001.
- In 1977 the entire University of Evansville basketball team died in a plane crash except for one player, David Furr, who was not in attendance due to an ankle injury. Furr and his brother were killed by a drunk driver two weeks later.
- 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan survived the plane crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 but was killed when a rescue vehicle ran her over in the aftermath.
- In 2011 a woman had a heart attack in her home and was pronounced dead. However, she was still alive and died later when she woke up in a coffin and had another heart attack.
- 6-year-old Abigail Taylor was injured in the same way a character in Final Destination 5 was killed: by being sucked into a pool drain. She survived the ordeal but died 9 months later due to transplant failure while treating her injuries.
- In 2009 Johanna Ganthaler and her husband missed their flight home from vacation. That flight, Air France Flight 447, crashed and all 228 passengers and crew were killed. The couple got a different flight, but on the drive home from the airport Ganthaler was killed in a car accident.
Interestingly, some of these stories involved “bad feelings” which might be the same way Alex Browning would have described his decision to step off of Flight 180 to Paris in the original Final Destination. Jessica Redfield wrote on her blog after the Toronto mall shooting that it was her bad feeling that saved her, “I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.”
Knowing that Jessica was killed only a month later recalls the folk story from Mesopotamia, “An Appointment in Samarra”. According to W. Somerset Maugham the story goes:
A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Soon afterwards, the servant comes home white and trembling and tells him that in the marketplace, he was jostled by a woman, whom he recognized as Death, who made a threatening gesture. Borrowing the merchant’s horse, he flees at great speed to Samarra, a distance of about 75 miles (125 km), where he believes Death will not find him. The merchant then goes to the marketplace and finds Death, and asks why she made the threatening gesture to his servant. She replies, “That was not a threatening gesture, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
Clearly the idea that Death has a design didn’t originate with the Final Destination franchise. In both fiction and real life, cultures all over the world have observed strange occurrences where Death seems to come back around for someone who first escaped a near-death situation. Final Destination is just one of the many stories we tell ourselves to make sense of these kind of coincidences within a chaotic universe.