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New Release Review - FLATLINERS

flatliners remake review
Remake of the cult 1990 supernatural thriller.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev

Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, James Norton, Kiefer Sutherland

flatliners remake poster


Like that other vastly over-rated Joel Schumacher/Kiefer Sutherland collaboration, The Lost Boys, 1990's Flatliners is a mediocre movie fondly remembered only by those nostalgic for one of the most fallow periods in American filmmaking. When it comes to horror, the genre is thankfully in a far better state in 2017 than in 1990, though Hollywood execs believe we're clamouring for a remake of a 27 year old dud in the year that's given us such original gems as The Transfiguration, It Comes at Night (yes, it is a bloody horror movie) and A Dark Song. Sadly, they may be right, as the public screening I attended (the movie wasn't screened for critics, which speaks volumes) on a sunny Friday afternoon was surprisingly well attended, mostly by viewers born well after the original was in cinemas.

The greatest cultural impact Schumacher's film had on me in my early teens was the dangerous playground fad it spun off, whereby acne riddled idiots would volunteer to be knocked unconscious. In the interest of safety, I won't divulge the moronic method we employed to 'go under', but it was controversial enough for the priests that ran my school to denounce Flatliners at morning assembly and issue notes to parents warning them of the evils of journeying to the other side.

flatliners remake

In the 1990 film, Sutherland played medical student Nelson Wright, who discovered a method of momentarily experiencing the afterlife while 'flatlining', his fellow 'Flatliners' resuscitating him just before he conked out completely. Sutherland returns for this version, and though he's again listed as Wright in the credits, he appears to be playing a completely different character. Either that or he's simply keeping his Flatlining past to himself.

Instead, it's up to a new generation to carry on the Flatlining tradition, led by Wright's top pupil, Courtney Holmes (Ellen Page), who like her mulleted '90s predecessor, discovers the secret of daytripping in the afterlife and convinces her classmates to join in the fun.

Remember the craze a few years back for movies in which the protagonists found ways to tap into previously dormant parts of the brain? Well, like the leads of Limitless, Lucy et al, the trust fund ghouls of this Flatliners find themselves imbued with extra brain power upon returning from the beyond, which comes in terribly handy in their roles at the hospital.

flatliners remake

As any LSD user will tell you, every trip has its downside, and soon the Flatliners are experiencing frighteningly real hallucinations based around their guilt over various past dalliances. Determined student Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) is dogged by visions of the girl whose nude pictures she distributed around high school. For Casanova Jamie (James Norton) it's the pretty blond he knocked up and left at the door of an abortion clinic. Competitive perfectionist Marlo (Nina Dobrev) is visited by the patient whose death she caused after misdiagnosing a jellyfish bite (yes, jellyfish bite!). And poor Courtney finds herself haunted by the very J-horror-esque ghost of her little sister, who drowned when the car Courtney was driving plunged into a river.

Just like Schumacher with his original, director Niels Arden Oplev (one of a growing band of Scandinavian journeymen currently enjoying steady employment in Hollywood) fails to make any of this visually interesting, and even discounting this being a remake, it all feels stale and derivative, with a very turn of the century vibe, as though it were a misjudged attempt to cash in on the success of the vastly superior Final Destination.

It doesn't help that the characters we're asked to worry about are an entitled bunch of sociopathic trust fund kids. The only likeable member of the group is Diego Luna's rock of sense Ray, but as he's the odd one out who doesn't flatline, he's never placed in any danger.

flatliners remake

Flatliners suffers from the same central issue as the recent found footage time travel thriller Project Almanac (though at least that movie had affable leads), in that it spends a ridiculous amount of its running time portraying the fun its protagonists are having with their scientific discovery, and crams all the horror into a rushed final act, by which point we've almost forgotten we're watching a supernatural thriller and not a St Elmo's Fire remake.

This reboot is undoubtedly awful, but when the source material is as uninspiring as the 1990 original, what can you really expect? This is one property that should never have been revived.

Flatliners is in UK/ROI cinemas now.



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