The film received mixed reviews from critics; in which negative assessments sorted the film as "silly and illogical" and "begins with the same flawed premise" of its precursor, while positive evaluations eulogized the film as "a real jolter for horror fans", "recognizes the close relationship between fright and laughter", and "surprisingly good fun for the current crop of horror films". The film grossed $46 million domestically and $43 million overseas, earning $90 million internationally. It was also nominated for four awards, including the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film.
Exactly one year after the explosion of Flight 180, college student Kimberly Corman is heading to Daytona Beach, Florida for spring break with her friends, Shaina McKlank, Dano Estevez, and Frankie Whitman. On route, Kimberly has a premonition of logs falling off a semi, causing a massive car accident that kills everyone involved. She stalls her car on the entrance ramp, preventing several people from entering the highway, including lottery winner Evan Lewis; widow Nora Carpenter and her fifteen-year-old son Tim; businesswoman Kat Jennings; stoner Rory Peters; pregnant Isabella Hudson; high school teacher Eugene Dix; and Deputy Marshal Thomas Burke. While Thomas questions Kimberly, the pileup occurs. Shaina, Dano and Frankie are killed by a speeding truck, but Kimberly is saved by Thomas.
The survivors are brought to the police station, where they learn about the curse of Flight 180. Later, a chain reaction causes a fire in Evan's apartment which he barely escapes; but when Evan slips the escape ladder falls and impales his eye. Thomas researches the survivors of Flight 180, and discovers that Alex Browning was killed by a falling brick. Kimberly visits Clear Rivers, the last survivor of Flight 180, who is now a voluntary inmate at a psychiatric ward. Clear refuses to help, but while arguing with Kimberly realizes that the survivors are dying in reverse, and warns Kimberly to look out for "signs" of Death. Upon arriving home, Kimberly has a vision of a flock of pigeons attacking her and she and Thomas rush to save Nora and Tim, but they arrive too late and Tim is crushed by a glass pane at a dentist. Clear decides to help and introduces Kimberly and Thomas to mortician William Bludworth, who tells them that only "new life" can defeat Death. They believe that if Isabella has her baby it will ruin Death's plan and they will all be safe.
Isabella is accused of driving a stolen van and taken into custody, while the other survivors reunite for safety. After Nora is decapitated by malfunctioning elevator doors, the group leaves to track down Isabella, who has gone into labor at the police station, while the policeman on duty rushes Isabella to the hospital in her van. Along the way they discover they have all cheated death twice; had it not been for the survivors of Flight 180 they would all be dead, which explains why the survivors are dying in reverse. Since Thomas saved Kimberly from being hit by the truck, she is last on Death's list.
The survivors' vehicle suffers a blowout, prompting them to swerve onto a farm. The back of the car is penetrated by PVC pipes which injure Eugene, and he is rushed to the hospital. As rescuers arrive at the scene, Brian Gibbons, the son of a farm owner, is nearly killed by a speeding news van, but Rory saves him. Using the Jaws of Life Kat's rescuer accidentally activates the airbag and her head is impaled by a pipe protruding from her headrest. Her cigarette falls out of her hand and into a gasoline leak leading to the news van, causing the van to explode, and sending a barbed wire fence flying through the air, which kills Rory.
Kimberly, Clear and Thomas rush to the hospital, and Kimberly has another vision of Dr. Ellen Kalarjian "strangling" Isabella. After Thomas immobilizes Dr. Kalarjian, Kimberly and Thomas witness Isabella give birth and assume they have cheated death. However, Kimberly has another vision of someone with bloody hands in a submerging van and realizes that Isabella was never meant to die in the pile-up.
Clear searches for Eugene, but accidentally causes his room to explode from an oxygen combustion, killing them both. Kimberly realizes the person in her vision was herself and immerses a van in a lake to drown herself. Kimberly is rescued by Thomas and resuscitated by Kalarjian, which was her actual premonition, granting her new life. Sometime later, Kimberly and Thomas have a picnic with Brian's family and Kimberly's father to celebrate their survival. There they learn of Brian's deterrence from Death when his father tells them he was almost hit by a van, but Rory saved him. The group then see a malfunctioning barbecue grill explode, killing Brian, and his severed arm falls in front of his mother, who screams in shock.
Final Destination was conceived by writers Jeffrey Reddick, James Wong, and Glen Morgan from Flight 180, a spec script intended for use in The X-Files. The film premiered across the United States and Canada on March 17, 2000, grossing $10,015,822 on its opening weekend and an overall gross of $112,880,294 internationally. The film's success inspired New Line Cinema then-President of Production Toby Emmerich to approach Reddick for a sequel, to which he responded positively. Reddick asserted that he "wanted to expand on the mythology and not just tell the same story over again.” Unfortunately, Wong and Morgan weren't available for production since they had already signed on their respective projects The One and Willard. Instead, New Line hired second unit director and stunt coordinator David R. Ellis as director and writing partners Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber as co-writers. "Second unit is like an extension of directing, you’re doing big action sequences on film and it was just something I was going after. Once I got the offer from New Line and we got a good script, it was kind of a natural transition," Ellis professed. "I wanted our film to be able to stand alone but I watched Final Destination to see what they did that was so successful. I tried to use some of that while trying to keep a stand-alone feel for our movie. I kind of took what worked and tried to improve on it," Ellis added. "We wanted to take what the first film did effectively, and add levels and layers that would come out through the characters. When we first started writing this, we were trying to think, 'How can we make Death just a total badass?' and to be perfectly honest, the first crack we ever took at this script had to be reined in!" Bress uncovered. On the other hand, producers Craig Perry and Warren Zide from Zide/Perry Productions also returned and helped on financing the film.
The protagonist of the prior film, Alex Browning (Devon Sawa), was killed off-screen in the film. Rumors indicated that Sawa had a contract dispute with New Line concerning the deduction of his salary; however, Perry resolved the issue with the statement that "it had everything to do with narrative, and nothing to do with money or Devon’s unwillingness to come back." Despite this, New Line reinstated Ali Larter to reprise her character as Clear Rivers. "When New Line asked me to come back, I thought it was great. They showed me the script and let me have some input, and it was really terrific," Larter revealed. Larter indicated that Clear "[has] gotten to a hardened place and tucked herself inside because she has felt so much pain in her life. By having herself committed to a mental hospital, she has created a safehouse so that Death can't get her." Tony Todd also resumed his character as mortician William Bludworth. "It’s the same character that we saw before that the audience loved," Ellis expressed.
The role of Kimberly Corman was given to Canadian actress A.J. Cook, who previously starred in the 1999 film The Virgin Suicides. Cook described her role as "a very strong girl, very determined because her mother died a year earlier, right in front of her eyes, so she had to grow up quick." Ellis described her role as "a girl who can have some fun cause they're going on a trip and they're gonna have a good time, yet someone who can stand up to Clear, to come and challenge Clear on a race, and to bother with Clear." Cook added that "it's rare to find one strong female lead in a horror film, not to mention two [Larter].” Ellis and Perry were amazed by her sensitivity and vulnerability in her performance, and she was hired instantly. "[We] were at the beginning of what's going to be a long successful career for her," Perry cited. Michael Landes, who appeared in the TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, was cast as Thomas Burke. Landes defined him as "a real nice, decent guy who comes across this huge car accident [and] who is very intrigued to begin with" and as "the guy who bumps into the girl and he goes nuts as her protector." Ellis pointed out that he "just wanted to find someone who's young and who can relate to these kids. It wasn't an older guy, but still strong enough and yet sensitive. [Landes] brought this really good balance to his part." Landes was cast a day after his audition, which caused flight schedule problems on his departure two days after and cancellation of his appointments.
Former Living Single star T. C. Carson was hired as Eugene Dix. Carson identified his role as "a very by-the-book type of person but soon has a change of heart as the corpses begin to pile up." The crew was enticed of Carson's casting, with Bress mentioning how his "originally envisioned Woody Allen-type of character has got ten more times life than it ever had. It's got ten times the personality, this charisma that T.C. brings to it...he's just such a great presence." Similarly, Perry was astonished by how Carson "can take the most absurd lines and deliver them in such grammatized form with his eyes and his deep rich speaking voice." Jonathan Cherry, who recently emerged in the 2003 film House of the Dead, was appointed as Rory Peters. Cherry characterized Rory as "a very opposite of me whose arc goes from, 'I don't really care at all', to 'Oh my God, this is really happening!'" In the script, Bress said that Rory was his favorite character to write since "he's great comic relief, he's got a drug problem, he's funny, and he's all that." Bress bragged that "Cherry is awesome, awesome casting cause he's just so funny and the way he delivers his lines. It's like 'Oh yeah. That's good! That's better!'" "What I think was surprising on him was that from all of the humor he's involved and his sort of itchiness that he has with Kat, there is some moments where he reveals how vulnerable he really is and so the shield comes down and right in there you're really becoming sympathetic to Rory. You like him at first cause he's the funny guy, but then you care about him because you realize that there's a place that humor comes from that we all share," Perry appended.
Blackwoods actress Keegan Connor Tracy played Kat Jennings. Tracy claimed that "[Kat] doesn't really buy it at first, but pretty soon even her cynical attitude can't ignore the truth of the situation they're all in." Perry defined the role as "someone who is really so self-absorbed that without being overly malicious is incredibly rude and insensitive to the feelings of all those around her." Her casting was assessed by Perry as "full of energy" and "embodies the self-aware nervous energy of Kat. [Tracy] created a character that you kind of dislike intensely but you don't dislike so much that you don't understand why she is the way she is." Rounding up the cast are Lynda Boyd (Rachel Todd in You, Me and the Kids) as widow Nora Carpenter and James Kirk (Kyle Morgan in Once Upon a Christmas) as her son Tim Carpenter, David Paetkau (Hunter Kerrigan in Just Deal) as gambler Evan Lewis, Justina Machado (Vanessa Diaz in Six Feet Under) as pregnant Isabella Hudson, and Noel Fisher (Todd Tolanski of X-Men: Evolution) as farmer Brian Gibbons. Novice actors Sarah Carter, Alejandro Rae, and Shaun Sipos were hired as Kimberly's friends Shaina McKlank, Dano Estevez, and Frankie Whitman correspondingly. Andrew Airlie portrayed Kimberly's father Michael Corman, while Enid-Raye Adams appeared as Dr. Ellen Kalarjian.
Likewise the first film, the film was shot in and around Vancouver Island. "We know the arena, we know the people up there and let's be honest, there’s an enormous economic incentive to shoot there. We were very fortunate to get [unit production manager] Justis Greene, who’s been working as a line producer up there for 30 years and who was able to get us the best crew working in town right now. It was advantageous to us on so many levels, that it was just the right place to go for this movie," Perry stated as the reason for the film's production in British Columbia. British Columbia Highway 19 was utilized as Route 23. The Plaza of Nations was used as a stand-in for Ellis Medical Complex, the site of Tim's death.
The farm and lake scenes were filmed in Campbell River and Okanagan Lake respectively, though it is depicted in Greenwood Lake, New York. "We shot part of it at the lake where it was 37° cold, which is beyond an ice cream headache. And the second stuff we shot in a big huge tank where we filmed all the underwater sequence, that was in a 93° pool," Landes clarified. Cook and Landes performed their own stunts in both sequences. "My biggest fear is being trapped in a car underwater. So it was kind of cool to face my fear and all that," Cook divulged. "We took a couple of lessons with a scuba guide to be comfortable being underwater and breathing off the regulator," Landes enunciated.
To avoid confusion with Larter and Carter, Cook was required to dye her hair brown for the role. "I like being a chameleon. It opens you up for so much more in this work. You don't get typecast," Cook professed. Landes also denied plots regarding Thomas and Kimberly's relationship. "It's kind of a protected relationship, more like a brother/sister thing than a love interest. They didn’t want to go there, I guess. They did go that way in an earlier draft of the script but they didn’t want it to seem like the cop is like lascivious or something. So what they have now, hopefully, is a little bit of chemistry and you get the idea that through tragedy something good will come. So it ends in an optimistic way, that maybe they can be together but there’s no real love story," Landes articulated.
Digital Dimension took charge of the visual effects of the film. CG supervisor Jason Crosby pointed out that their studio was mainly selected for the highway sequence after the crew realized real logs only bounced about an inch off the road when dropped from a logging truck. "They were concerned about how they would make the shot happen, not knowing if CG would work. The timing was great because we had just finished a test shot of our CG logs bouncing on the freeway. We sent a tape to Vancouver and after seeing it the crew was convinced that any of the log shots could be done with CG," Crosby indicated. "It began with R&D on the log dynamics. Scripts were written to help manage the dynamic simulations with real world numbers for gravity, density, etc. The results were remarkably similar to the original logs shot in Vancouver, a testament to the accuracy of the software and the data we had collected, however the logs still lacked the 'jumping through windshields killer instinct' we were looking for. By tweaking the parameters, we coaxed the logs into a much livelier role." Senior technical director James Coulter added creative 3D tracking on shots with fast pans, motion blur, and filters such as dust, mist, slabs of bark, broken chains, and other debris. Digital artist Edmund Kozin manipulated high resolution photos which were carefully stitched together to achieve realistic texture amongst the 22 CG logs of the film. Hair shaders were also inputed for splintering and frayed wood looks for the logs. Physics such as speed and height of the logging truck, length and width of the logs, type of wood and density of a Douglas-fir were also considered.
In spite of this, there are no CG cars incorporated in the actual film. "It was a possibility in the beginning so we did some dynamics tests using the logs as rigid bodies to hit cars with soft body deformers on them, but when they were done shooting they didn’t end up needing any CG cars," Crosby avowed. Lifecasts of the actors were also used for all of the death scenes, including the highway setting. Landes experienced claustrophobia during the procedure. Fake blood was also used, but CG blood was also shown.
Like its predecessor, no official album accompanied the motion picture; however, there are ten songs featured in the film itself and two music videos embedded in its subsequent home release. Two singles of The Sounds, Dance with Me and Rock 'n Roll, were promoted on Kimberly's car stereo. Besides these, the music video of Seven Days a Week accompanied the film's DVD. Middle of Nowhere by The Blank Theory was both heard on Evan's car radio and inserted in the DVD along with its music video. Rocky Mountain High by John Denver was covered twice in the end credits by Pete Snell and Jude Christodal. Christodal also performed My Name is Death during Brian's death and the end credits. Other songs integrated were Highway to Hell by AC/DC (on Kimberly's car AV), Jon F. Hennessy by FT (on Rory's vehicle audio), Vitamin by Incubus (during Evan's house fire) and I Got You by (hed) Planet Earth (during Rory's party).
Final Destination 2: Original Motion Picture Score was the promotional film score conducted by Daytime Emmy-winning composer Shirley Walker. Though it was not officially released, it was made available alongside Willard: The Original Motion Picture Score on September 30, 2003.
The score received positive reviews among commentators. Robert Koehler of Variety applauded that "Shirley Walker's score displays a thorough understanding of horror jolts." Pete Roberts of DVDActive admired the score as "top notch." Anthony Horan of DVD.net Australia told readers to "crank up the volume and prepare for a sonic feast". Nonetheless, Chris Carle of IGN Movies noted that "while the score is nothing you'll remember, it gets the job done."
The film premiered in 2,834 theaters across the United States and Canada on January 31, 2003, earning $16,017,141 in its opening weekend with an average of $5,651 per theater. Final Destination 2 placed at #2 in the United States box office in its opening weekend, only $200,000 short behind the thriller film The Recruit, which debuted on the same day, starred Al Pacino and Colin Farrell, and cleared $16,302,063 domestically. The film dropped to #5 in the next weekend and descended to #7 in its third weekend during Washington's Birthday. The film dropped out of the top-ten list in its fourth weekend until its last screening in 42 theaters in its sixteenth weekend, grossing $27,585 and placing in #65. Final Destination 2 grossed $46,961,214 in the United States and Canada on its total screening and produced $43,465,191 in other territories, having an overall gross of $90,426,405 internationally.
In comparison with its precursor, Final Destination ranked #3 on its opening weekend with net worth of $10,015,822, which is $6 million less than the first weekend of Final Destination 2 at #2. The previous film received $53,302,314 domestically throughout its 22-week run, $64 million more than its sequel's gross all through its 16-week presentation. Final Destination amassed $59,549,147 in other countries and $112,802,314 overall, getting $16 million and $22 million more than Final Destination 2 in that order.
The film was released on DVD on July 22, 2003. The DVD includes bonus features including an audio commentary, six deleted scenes, three documentaries, two music videos, three trailers, interactive menus and subtitles. The audio commentary presents Ellis, Perry, Bress, and Gruber providing information about the making of the film and their intentions overall. Deleted scenes are a cross-examination with Isabella's husband Marcus Hudson (Roger Cross), a conversation between Eugene and Nora, a car chase concerning Kimberly's reckless driving, and Eugene's meeting with Death at the hospital, and extended versions of Kimberly's interrogation at the police station and the encounter with Bludworth. The first documentary labelled Bits & Pieces: Bringing Life To Death runs for 30 minutes and recalls the history of splatter film, on top of accounts in relation to the visual effects of the film. The second documentary entitled Cheating Death: Beyond and Back progresses for 18 minutes and brings out people recounting their own real-life experiences with death. The Terror Gauge, the third documentary, is a test screening system of the film in which viewers are subjected to biofeedback and neurological examination under neurophysiologist Dr. Victoria Ibric. Other featurettes of the DVD include the interactive game Choose Your Fate, the music videos of Middle of Nowhere by The Blank Theory and Seven Days a Week by The Sounds, the theatrical trailers of this film and its antecedent, in addition to informative trivias provided throughout the featurettes.
Analogous to its forerunner, the film received generally mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports 48% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based on 109 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10. The site's consensus of opinion is that "This sequel is little more than an excuse to stage elaborate, gory scenes of characters getting killed off." At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film holds an average score of 38 based on 25 reviews. On June 14, 2010, Nick Hyman of Metacritic included Final Destination 2 in the website's editorial 15 Movies the Critics Got Wrong, denoting that "the elaborate suspense/action set pieces from the first two films are more impressive than most."
Negative evaluations condemned the film's plot, acting, and screenplay. Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times groused that "perhaps movies are like history, and repeat themselves, first as tragedy, then as farce." James Berardinelli of ReelViews stressed that "the movie mandates complete gullibility and vacuous attention in order to work on any level." Claudia Puig of USA Today groused on how that "there is an audience for a movie in which innocent people suffer hideous accidental deaths is troubling enough, but a group of creative people chose to direct their energies on this repulsive spectacle [which] simply provokes disgust." Justine Elias of The Village Voice asserted that "this risible thriller is merely a sadistic series of misread premonitions and vile murders." David Grove of Film Threat stated that "[he] wasn’t much scared by anything in Final Destination 2 which is silly and illogical." Jeff Vice of Deseret News censured to "not even get into the awful script or the numbingly awful performances"; while Bruce Fretts of Entertainment Weekly reviled "everything else about the film is also deadly."
Conversely, other columnists applauded the film's comedic theme. A. O. Scott of The New York Times imparted "it's not as cheekily knowing as the Scream movies or as trashily Grand Guignol as the Evil Dead franchise, but like those pictures it recognizes the close relationship between fright and laughter, and dispenses both with a free, unpretentious hand." C. W. Nevius of San Francisco Chronicle conveyed its "funnier than the original." Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide pronounced "if this is your idea of fun, step right up." William Arnold of Seattle Post-Intelligencer found it as "a series of Grand Guignol skits played for mean-spirited laughs." Marc Savlov of Austin Chronicle admired how "it is surprisingly good fun for the current crop of horror films, reasonably well-plotted and full of jaw-dropping, white-knuckle scares. That said, it’s most definitely not for the squeamish nor the easily offended." Nev Pierce of BBC saw that "it's simple, but effective"; whereas Sheila Norman-Culp of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution proclaimed that "what Final Destination did for the fear of flying, Final Destination 2 does for the fear of driving."
Amongst the cast ensemble, Carson, Cherry, Cook, Landes, Larter, and Todd were prominent amidst the analysis for their performances as Eugene, Rory, Kimberly, Thomas, Clear, and Bludworth respectively. Koehler of Variety said that "Carson as skeptical Eugene energizes what had been a rote conception on the page"; "Cherry offered some dry comic balance"; Larter was "casted little light"; Todd was squandered by his "single, distinctly flat scene"; and "the generally awful thesping, led by Cook, whose blurry grasp of emotions betrays Ellis' apparent disinterest in his actors." Grove of Film Threat panned Cook, uttering that "she’s no great actress, but she’s a real looker" and teased that "since when did a horror movie suffer from having two dumb blondes as leads", the other actress referring to Larter, whom "spends the whole movie looking miserable with her frigid acting." Dustin Putman of TheMovieBoy.com commented how "Cook is serviceable as the premonition-fueled Kimberly, but doesn't evoke enough emotion in the scenes following the brutal deaths of her close friends." Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews stated that "Cook was strident as the catalyst that sparks events with her premonitions of disaster and her fervent desire to cheat the Reaper" whereas Larter was "giving the smart-ass edge her character needs"; while Brett Gallman of Oh, The Horror! claimed that Larter "is again the bright spot", along with Cook and Landes who were "serviceable as leads" and Todd "whose purpose has still yet to be revealed in the franchise."
Like its predecessor, the film was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film in 2004, as well as Choice Movie - Horror/Thriller in the 2003 Teen Choice Awards; likewise, the awards lost to 28 Days Later and The Ring, respectively. In the 4th Golden Trailer Awards, it was voted for the Golden Fleece, but lost to the surfer film Blue Crush. Furthermore, the Collision on Highway 23 was nominated for Best Action Sequence at the MTV Movie Awards in 2003, but lost it to the Battle for Helm's Deep of the fantasy film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, another New Line film.
The highway scene was regarded by Grove of Film Threat as "a monument to smashed cars, flying objects and scorched metal" and Garth Franklin of Dark Horizons as "utterly spectacular." Anne Billson of Guardian.co.uk exclaimed it as "one of the most terrifying sequences I've ever seen, all the more effective for being grounded in reality; few drivers haven't felt that anxious twinge as the badly secured load on the lorry in front of them starts to wobble."
The Route 23 pileup scene was included in the lists of best car crashes or disaster scenes by Screen Junkies, Made Man, Unreality Magazine, All Left Turns, Chillopedia, Filmstalker, io9, UGO Entertainment, Filmcritic.com, and New York Magazine. Filmsite.org enlisted all fatalities in its Best Film Deaths Scenes. The demise of Kirk's character entered these listings of the most shocking deaths on film: George Wales of Total Film (#28), James Eldred of Bullz-Eye.com (#20), and Jeff Otto of Bloody Disgusting (#9).