FINAL DESTINATION 2 — * — A.J. Cook, Ali Larter, Michael Landes, T.C. Carson, Keegan Connor Tracy, Jonathan Cherry, Lynda Boyd, Tony Todd; rated R (violence, gore, profanity, drug use, vulgarity, brief nudity); see "Playing at local movie theaters" for complete listing of local theaters.

It may have seemed that there was no way to make a more heavy-handed, obvious — and less scary — horror movie than the original "Final Destination." But that didn't stop the makers of "Final Destination 2" from trying. And darned if they didn't manage to accomplish that goal after all.

"Final Destination 2" gets more mileage out of the dopey premise — a few young people manage to cheat death, so Death goes after them in creative ways — by employing a mostly no-name cast and by upping the gore quotient.

Here's a tally of some of the more, er, interesting methods used to dispatch the film's ensemble of cardboard characters:

  • Air-bag-induced impaling
  • Barb-wire fence evisceration
  • Eye-gouging via fire escape
  • Elevator beheading
  • Glass-pane squashing
  • Unfortunately, all of those sequences are done with a straight face, and on the whole, the movie lacks the playful sense of ironic humor that might make it tolerable.

    One person hoping to avoid a grisly fate is Kimberly Corman (played by former Utahn A.J. Cook), a college student who receives an eerie premonition that she's going to die in a horrific highway pileup. So Kimberly purposely stalls her vehicle in traffic — and in the process also prevents a handful of others from perishing. Later, however, this ragtag group of survivors begins dying off one by one, in the most painful and gruesome manner possible.

    That leaves things up to one of two returning characters from the first movie — unlikely named survivor Clear Rivers (Ali Larter). She's only one with an idea of how to thwart Death's "plan."

    To his credit, stuntman-turned-director David R. Ellis does know how to stage a car-crash sequence. But after that vivid opening salvo, the film quickly goes south.

    Let's not even get into the awful script or the numbingly awful performances. Cook, who impressed in "The Virgin Suicides," continues her subsequent downhill slide; late in the film, she appears to be looking for the exit.

    "Final Destination 2" is rated R for graphic scenes of violent deaths (vehicular, impalings and others), graphic gore, occasional use of strong sex-related profanity, crude sexual slang terms and vulgar gestures, simulated drug use (marijuana, cocaine and tranquilizers) and brief female nudity. Running time: 90 minutes.