Monday, August 15th, 2011

'Final Destination' v. Real Life: A Deathly Comparison

If we’ve learned anything from Hollywood, it’s that there’s a million ways to bite the dust, and nearly all of them are unpleasant. No film utilizes the fear of the precariousness of everyday life quite like the gore-horror franchise Final Destination, even if it is a prisoner of its own formula. Beginning as each film does with fairly "everyday" accidents—bridge collapses, racetrack explosions, roller coaster accidents—and proceeding to the outlandish, just how far does Final Destination go in order to punish those who cheat death? The answer: pretty far, yes, but almost never into the realm of impossibility. (Although yes, to date, no one has died of Lasik surgery. Also? Statistically speaking, you are wildly unlikely to die in any of these awful and often upsetting ways.)

In the movies…
In real life…
You can only cheat death so many times before it gets fed up and decides you’re just not worth the trouble of a spectacular Hollywood finale. Enter Alex Browning, the protagonist in the first pic of the series. After dodging three potential deaths, we learn in passing that he finally met his match with a falling brick to the head.
Yan Zhen Zhao was fatally injured when a brick fell onto her head back in 1998. The 16-year-old was walking past an elementary school in Brooklyn when the brick tumbled from a roof that was under construction.

You should always be wary of machines that can chew through a tough-barked chunk of wood like it’s cotton candy. Chainsaws, axes, wood chippers—best to keep them in a bolt-locked shed far far away. Thomas Burke and Kimberly Corman find this out the hard way when they reach a gruesome end via a flesh-hungry wood chipper in an alternate ending to FD 3.
Brian Morse was trimming birch trees in Loveland, Colo., when his gloved hand got caught in a wood chipper. He was pulled through the machine before anyone could help him. Official cause of death: “total morselization of body.”

A relaxing day at the pool is bound to go wrong. Or at least it does for Hunt Wynorski in FD 4. After the tanned and toned hunk encounters an excessively-powerful pool drain, his rock-solid body is turned into a pitiful puddle of guts.
In 2007, six-year-old Abigail Taylor’s internal organs were partially sucked out of her body while she sat on a wading pool drain at the Minneapolis Golf Club. Doctors replaced her organs, and the nation applauded this medical miracle. To make a sad story more upsetting, she died the next year from rare transplant-related complications.

You will regret being tall enough to ride. It doesn’t matter what your 8-year-old cousin says, roller coasters are scary. They’re scary when they’re working, and they’re extra scary when they’re careening off their rails. A ride called Devil’s Flight should have been clue enough, but FD characters aren’t exactly known for their risk-aversion skills. Death catches up to the survivors of the Devil's Flight—though no such luck for the extras, who die when faulty hydraulics and a freak accident involving a video camera causes the ride from hell to lurch off the tracks and plummet to the ground.
While you’re more likely to die on something like a Sizzler than the Mamba (seriously, that thing is dangerous!), roller coaster accidents still do happen. Take the case of a 19-year-old woman who died after the Fujin Raijin II, a fast-paced coaster in Osaka derailed due to a broken axel. Cause of the accident? The ride’s axels hadn’t been replaced for 15 years, as of the 2007 accident.

Elevators malfunction. That’s a fact. And believe it or not, there are worse fates than getting stuck in a cramped box on the 31st floor when it’s 105 degrees outside. In FD2, Nora Carpenter loses her head when, while panicking, her braids get caught on a cart full of prosthetic limbs while riding in an elevator. (As so often happens.) While she's struggling to get out, her hair holds her back, causing the elevator to sever her head.
Dr. Hitoshi Nikaidoh, a surgical resident at a Houston hospital, was decapitated by a malfunctioning elevator in 2003. The doctor’s shoulders were pinned by the doors, which then allowed the ceiling to slice off most of his head as the elevator continued to move upwards. Even worse than reading about this terrible story? Watching it happen—which is what happened to a physician’s assistant, who was then stuck in the elevator with the decapitated head for at least an hour.

You are, after all, just a piece of meat. Take the death of Peter Friedkin in the new FD5. (Spoiler!) After he tries to kill a coworker in a botched scheme to add more years to his life, Peter gets what’s coming to him. And what’s coming to him is a giant meat skewer to the back. (Bonus: If you haven't seen actor Miles Fisher's cover of "This Must Be the Place," well…. Somewhat NSFW!
An 80-year-old Brit named Leslie Ince was impaled by a 22-inch meat skewer in his own home. He was found half alive in a cupboard but died a month later in the hospital. Last we heard, authorities were still trying to determine if it was murder or a self-inflicted accident.

Liz Stinson is a Nebraska-based writer. She did not enjoy this research.

16 Comments / Post A Comment

whizz_dumb (#10,650)


joeclark (#651)

Given the golden opportunity to use a legitimate TABLE, the Awl stays true to form and half-asses it with nonsemantic DIVs and a raft of BRs.

Why are you actually so bad at the Internet? HTML too hard for artsies? What is it?

@joeclark I thought it was retro chic.

joeclark (#651)

The table should actually look like this (minor variations in CSS and image-floating excluded). I fixed innumerable HTML errors, including missing alt texts, and a few copy errors.

Again: HTML isn’t hard even for artsies. The half-assed bullshit approach used here is significantly more difficult than using a real data table, which this content actually is.

@joeclark I LOVE YOU.

hockeymom (#143)

What about the old "elevator to hell"….or more accurately, "Elevator to Basement in Staten Island where dirty water will rush in, up to your neck and you MAY DROWN".
That could happen, too.

GailPink (#9,712)


That video is like…ya know?

keisertroll (#1,117)

I can't believe a movie series whose promise was that Death wanted Devon Sawa to die on TWA Flight 800 (essentially) would last this long.

brix (#189,849)

oh my goodness

keisertroll (#1,117)

Also, I'm disappointed you did not compare "Final Destination" to the 1979 Albert Brooks masterpiece "Real Life".

As I was informed by my college roommate, who moonlighted as an EMT : "Some people are eggs. Some people are potatoes. Potatoes can fall off a 5-story balcony and not even sprain their ankle. Eggs will trip on the last step and break their neck."

Postscript: When asked how to determine, pre-potentially-fatal-accident, whether one was an egg or a potato, he demurred and started talking about gruesome motorcycle fatalities he'd seen.

laurel (#4,035)

Ah, the siren song of the wood chipper…

scrooge (#2,697)

Sounds like a take-off from Six Feet Under (in which my favorite is the woman who stands through the limo roof and has her face flattened by an overhanging traffic sign).

brix (#189,849)

hi guys i just want to know if final destination is real because i had a nightmare that the bridge collapse just like in the final destination 5 but after i dream i woke up then i tell my friends that i had a nightmare then in my dream the first victim had accident(mean not to die) then 3 months later (october,1,2011) i had feared that im next im afriad then (october 2 2011) that the day i accident i had more scars in my hand's and feet i slip it a wet floor then i cry and said "its over"

Perhaps the scariest one happened not too long after the first FD was released. Hilda Mayol, who survived the World Trade Center attack on 9/11/01, perished when American Airlines Flight 587 bound for the Dominican Republic, crashed after takeoff in Belle Harbor, Queens, NY, killing everyone on board. It's one of the most coincidental, and unfortunate thing I'd ever seen. Oh yeah, and did anyone realize the grim fact that Flight 587 also took off from JFK, just like the Flight 180 in the movie!

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