The 1990 thriller “Flatliners” boasted an all star cast and a unique and grisly premise. More importantly, it served as my very first Buff review. As such, trailers for the 2017 remake got me excited.
A team of new writers and directors take the original premise, and put their own creative spin to it without sacrificing the skeleton of the original story.
A group of medical students at a highly touted though unnamed university take turns flatlining – having their heart and bodily organs shut down declaring them legally dead – so they can experience glimpses of the afterlife before their classmates resuscitate them.
I love the concept and I think its an idea everyone watching would be intrigued by. Since the beginning of time mankind has had an obsession and preoccupation with death and the afterlife – what, if anything comes next. The idea of the unfathomable has played a key role in countless stories, paintings, and film, but none has done so in such a unique way as in the story behind “Flatliners.”
Ellen Page takes charge of the ensemble cast in the role of Courtney Holmes, a student who first broaches the concept for an extra credit assignment and is the first to experience the effects. Page broke onto the scene with her role in the 2007 movie “Juno” and here demonstrates she has the chops to succeed with a much deeper and darker character.
An early scene displays Courtney’s driving force to study medicine, with a tragic event that plays a hand in her decision to flatline. When Courtney comes out she has an uncanny memory, recalling how to play the piano after a 12 year absence and answering exam questions by reciting text from a book she read years ago.
Things go awry for the group when haunting components from the afterlife begin to stalk and terrorize them in the present.
What I like most about “Flatliners,” aside from the story itself, is the slow build for each of the characters between their decision to witness firsthand a near-death experience and the eventual demons that arise.
The cast lacks the star power of the original, with Page joined by “Rogue One’s” Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, and Kiefer Sutherland. While not as glamorous or well known, each does a decent job with the role they are playing.
The scares are delivered in an effective and staggered way. Haunting glimpses from the afterlife begin appearing in the present. The sounds of a baby’s cries or the final words spoken by Courtney’s little sister plague the students in the waking life. Each harbors guilt for something from their past, and guilt they must eventually atone for.
What keeps the movie from great status is the sloppy ending. The story abandons its horror roots and closes out on a bit of a whimper. While I enjoyed the comradery and genuine laughs among the characters, a little too much humor can distract from an otherwise chilling story.
Some of the characters have rushed flatlining experiences and their backstories come across as a bit too convenient and unrealistic. The story may be better told with only 3 or 4 members of the group instead of 5.
“Flatliners” is a fun movie to see this October season. It’s not going to blow you away or become an all time favorite, but its a solid film and worth a trip to the theater.
by – Matt DeCristo