It’s not an unqualified rave to say that Final Destination 2 is the rare sequel that improves upon the original. After all, it’s better only because it’s slightly more self-aware without being annoying and its convoluted deaths have an even greater sense of gruesome playfulness. Otherwise, it’s the exact same movie.

This second installment does open with an opening certain to rank with the year’s best — a fiery freeway pileup involving trucks, cop cars, motorcycles, SUVs and Trans Ams. As all the vehicles are bandied about like pinballs, it’s a spectacularly filmed freak-out that’s gripping and grotesque.

Of course, it’s all a premonition in the mind of Kimberly (A.J. Cook), the driver of the doomed SUV who sees the vision waiting at the freeway on-ramp. Sufficiently creeped out, Kimberly blocks traffic, preventing everyone she saw die in her vision from being on the freeway when the accident occurs.

Naturally, everyone thinks they’re lucky, but all they’ve done is anger death, which feels cheated out of souls it was meant to collect. In its ire, death merely conjures up convoluted ways for them to die. For those unfamiliar with the original, think the childhood game Mousetrap with lots of sharp objects and blood.

To combat their predicament, the crash “survivors” form sort of a support group for those who cheat death, as they try to figure out how to reverse the inevitable fate picking them off one by one.

In fairly obligatory fashion, Final Destination 2 references its source by bringing back two characters — Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), the first film’s only survivor who has secluded herself in a padded room and a morbid mortician played by modern horror-movie staple Tony Todd. 

Final Destination 2 is the sort of movie that creates rules as it goes only to twist and cheat on them at the screenwriters’ whim. But at least the movie’s lack of logic is tempered by its humor, in its delicious, albeit throwaway, one-liners and squirm-worthy demises. 

One doomed person comments that maybe they’re suffering from that “Diff’rent Strokes curse,” a drug addict’s confessional scene is good for a chuckle, and the movie teaches a harsh, but wise, lesson as to why people shouldn’t litter.

Much like the first, it’s a delicious premise that’s been dumbed down, with only the most vague, abstract talk of the notions of fate. Instead, it’s filled with scenes laden with irony and coincidence that the audience can anticipate and snicker at with just a bit of nervousness. Because that’s all to be expected of a movie like this, for that reason, it works.