Death, taxes, and the inevitable shudder a middle-aged film fan experiences when they learn that yet another movie they caught in theaters during its initial run is now celebrating a major anniversary – those are the only certainties in life. Case in point: Final Destination, the inventive 2000 horror/thriller which kicked off a franchise that spans five films (to date), just celebrated its 20th anniversary last week. And reader, let me tell you: the fact that this near-40 year old writer caught this flick on opening weekend as a kid…well, it does make one consider one’s own mortality, that’s a fact.
To commemorate this landmark, pop culture website Consequence of Sound recently ran an oral history of the film, which detailed the movie’s origins and production. Of particular note for horror fans should be the story’s beginnings as an “X-Files” spec script penned by writer Jeffrey Reddick, who had been inspired by a People Magazine article detailing a mother’s premonition that her daughter’s flight was doomed to explode. After a solid bit of advice from a pal at New Line, Reddick chose to turn his creepy tale concerning the inescapability of death into a feature screenplay.
His first step was to rework the core idea of his “X-Files” script into a twelve page treatment with the working title Flight 180. Once New Line purchased the treatment, Reddick set about writing the full feature. By the time the film went into production, the screenplay had been reworked by writing duo Glen Morgan and James Wong (the latter also directed). The “X-Files” writers took some liberties with Reddick’s original tale, with the main change being that the film’s threat wouldn’t be a shadowy figure, but an unseen force who apparently delights in claiming its prey through increasingly inventive, Rube Goldberg-esque scenarios.
While that difference between the initial concept and finished film is already widely known, what wasn’t as well known were the finer details of Reddick’s original treatment and script. In them, the tone is far more grim than the film’s intermittently scary and playful approach, presenting a villain which weaponized its victims’ emotional and psychological weaknesses to push them toward suicide, leading to some pretty grisly setpieces which reveal Reddick’s obvious love for A Nightmare on Elm Street. And in addition to most of the characters’ names being different, the treatment and original script also feature an intriguing character named Randall Sykes, a member of a support group for disaster survivors who helps guide our leads to their understanding of their supernatural predicament with his ideas on predestination and premonition, even flat out stating at one point that ”…death is coming for you.”. It isn’t a stretch to think that this character was eventually rewritten to be Tony Todd’s creepy mortician William Bludworth, though he’s a strikingly different figure in many ways.
These aren’t the only differences, of course. However, rather than simply listing each individual change that was made from treatment to script to film, we here at Bloody Disgusting are lucky enough to present both the complete treatment and first draft of the original screenplay, as so kindly provided to us by Jeffrey Reddick himself!
From Mr. Reddick: “Below is the original treatment for Flight 180 and the script. It is interesting because the treatment [is] different, and also focused on a teacher and some other adults. My love of Nightmare on Elm Street is in there. I think James Wong and Glen Morgan definitely made a great choice to ground it more in reality with the Rube Goldberg angle. I think that made Death more of a universal threat, whereas this version made it more personal to the people that cheated it.”
Give these rare pieces of horror history a peek by clicking the two images down below, and then leave us a comment to let us know what you think. Enjoy!
Flight 180 Treatment: