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

by Liz Stinson

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.