The original Flatliners of 1990 is a flawed yet interesting thriller, designed to question the ins and out of morality while also attempting to answer one question: what happens after we die? With an incredible cast consisting of Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts and…Billy Baldwin, the original Flatliners is a film I enjoyed, for the most part.
When a remake/sequel/whatever the hell this actually is was announced, many people we intrigued by the idea of a modern retelling. I picture this film being a serviceable film, one I would probably forget about in a few days but not hate. However, what we get is one of the most maddening inconsistent films I’ve ever had the displeasure of watching.
The focus of the film follows five med students attempting to make their name in one of the most prestigious medical schools in the country. In fact, this school is so prestigious its name isn’t mentioned once. Off to a good start.
Our main characters are the determined Courtney (Ellen Page), who we follow for the most part, and is still tortured by the accidental death of her sister nine years earlier. There’s also the overachiever Marlo (Nina Dobrev), sexpot Jamie (James Norton), pushover Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) and level-headed Ray (Diego Luna).
They begin to literally kill themselves to figure out what happens after death, and at the same time apparently entering enlightenment and horror along the way. It’s an intriguing idea, one done pretty well twenty-seven years ago. In fact, the trailer makes it seem as though we’ll continue to see these students flatline, trying to constantly outdo one another in terms of special skills and knowledge learned. Instead, this premise is dropped some thirty minutes in, instead delving into a basic haunting story, littered with jump scares and gray skinned ghosts.
Aside from the ridiculous turn of events, this film is full of some of the most cringeworthy dialogue ever uttered on-screen. There are many occasions consisting of “I can’t believe they said that line” dialogue and everything is uttered at an obscene pace.
The acting isn’t much better. Page and Dobrev are both good actresses but they suffer the most from having to say some of the stupidest crap possible. Clemons, who I absolutely loved in Dope, is the most awkward person imaginable, and not in a good way. Norton has a few funny lines but nothing of note. Diego Luna is the only one who seems to be trying and his delivery and common sense make him the only relatable character.
Oh yeah, and Kiefer Sutherland shows up as the director of the hospital. No, he isn’t playing his character from the first film (as originally said in tweets and press material) and he adds nothing to the film.
As I said before, Flatliners offers nothing new in terms of scares. Loud bangs, screeches, music and screams are a plenty. These ghosts, “cleverly” dubbed as sins, are the exact thing we’ve seen for the past ten years; gray skin, sunken eyes and able to leap small buildings in a single bound … I mean teleport across rooms.
However, I’ll give Flatliners one thing — they manage to conjure up a pretty damn good scare midway through the film. No loud music, no stinger, just something that appears out of nowhere. It was actually an early scare as well, and it had me hoping that it would set a tone for the rest of the runtime. Unfortunately, it’s wasted.
Flatliners is garbage, plain and simple. The main flaw of the film is the lack of any originality. I get it, it’s a remake so what originality, right? Well, it missed many opportunities. Why not have Sutherland play his character from the original and figure out what they’re up to? Why not differentiate the sins? Why have the trailer make it seem like they keep dying to gain enlightenment but instead to straight up lie to the audience?
These are answers only a few people know and I found myself asking at first, then absolutely not caring about. One good scare does not a movie make. The best part of the movie was the one scare I mentioned and possibly Luna, but it won’t be long before this movie dies a death much like its characters. My only hope is that is stays dead.
Flatliners is currently in theaters.