close menu
Horror Remake FLATLINERS is DOA (Review)

Horror Remake FLATLINERS is DOA (Review)

A few months ago, Flatliners looked like it might be the rare horror remake worth the revamping. The original 1990 Kiefer Sutherland/Julia Roberts vehicle was a good concept that got bogged down with seedy-then-sentimental story elements. But the trailer for the new version suggested it’d hold more slickness, scares, and maybe some superpowers to boot. It also boasted a hot young cast that includes Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Kiersey Clemons, Nina Dobrev, and James Norton. But as Flatliners approached its release date, red flags appeared as press screenings did not. So following the first public screening available, I’m sorry to report this resurrection-centered remake is dead on arrival.

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, Flatliners follows five medical students through their willful brushes with death. Courtney (Page) has a theory that they can prove the existence of the afterlife by mapping the changes in the brain when a body dies. To prove it, she plays human guinea pig, pressuring her classmates to stop her heart and then resuscitate her after one minute of death. She sees visions beautiful and strange, and when her heart’s re-started it seems her “brain is rewired.” She has a total recall of any book she’s ever read, which is a real advantage in the highly competitive course work at the hospital. Hungry to standout, playboy Jamie (Norton), neurotic Sophia (Clemons), and fussy Marlo (Dobrev) rush to follow in Courtney’s flat-lining footsteps, while steely Ray (Luna) agrees to join the resuscitation team.

At first, each Flatliner is in awe of the rush and the visions. But the longer you stay dead, the darker these get. And being brought back to the living doesn’t stop them. The students are stalked, harassed and attacked by a mysterious force. Have they unlocked a door between the living and the dead? Or is their curse something scientific or cerebral? They must find out before each of them is pushed to a death they won’t come back from.

One more, Flatliners is a cool concept, rich with the possibility for scares, insights into mortality, and moral ambiguity. But this remake pays off on none of the above, instead opting for a lackluster story and thinly drawn characters. Honestly, I struggled to come up with a single adjective for most of the film’s heroes. Because aside from “really determined to be doctors,” the screenplay by Ben Ripley tells us little else about their personalities. It does however give us a dead weight first act that trudges through scene after scene establishing how stressful being a medical student is. Then it hastily smashes the characters together in a forgotten hospital basement where they can play out the deadly scenario. The actual establishment and development of their characters and relationships seems an afterthought. Montage sequences show them drinking, dancing, and smashing down walls post-flatline. But unclear is how close they were before, so unknown is how this experiment is transforming them or their bonds.

Essentially, Flatliners is emotionally comatose. On top of that, its plot line seems bored with itself. Though the first act will set up movie science and chatter about the importance of a big breakthrough, these students almost immediately lose interest in the project’s goals, and instead use it as a sort of extreme performance enhancing drug. When they begin experiencing nightmarish visions in their waking lives, one will give lip service to how it might be a side effect, but the others are quick to shout him down and suggest something paranormal. Also quickly sidelined is the seeming superpowers thread. Sure, Courtney gets total recall, while Jamie and Sophia get–um–impulsiveness? It’s unclear, and it doesn’t matter, because after the glancing establishment of perks of this near-death experience, the movie forgets them because we need to get some creepy visuals in here.

Unfortunately, what Flatliners counts for scares is astoundingly unoriginal. There’s a creepy girl with her hair in her face, lurking about. There’s flickering lights and jump scares involving corpses popping up then vanishing. There’s pretty young women hurled across hallways and morgues by an unseen force. You’ve seen it all before, but this time it’s worse, because with no emotional investment in these barely-there characters, audiences will have all the emotional investment of choosing a stick of gum.

To their credit, the cast tries to bring some life to this soulless drudgery masquerading as horror. They scream their hearts out, and smile brightly so we might appreciate their pretty faces. But a script with all the depth of a baby pool cannot be saved. And so Flatliners is a grave disappointment.

And for the record: I reject that this is a sequel. The only apparent tie is Sutherland, who has a small role as doctor who doesn’t even share a name with his original Flatliners character. It’s pure PR because horror sequels get a smidge more respect than remakes.

2 out of 5 burritos.

Kristy Puchko is a freelance entertainment reporter and film critic. You can find more of her reviews hereFollow her on Twitter! 

Images: Columbia Pictures

Want more Nerdist reviews? Look no further!

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Spoiler-Free Review)

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Spoiler-Free Review)

article
9 Actors Who Should Play Batman if Ben Affleck Leaves

9 Actors Who Should Play Batman if Ben Affleck Leaves

article
New SHE-RA Series Coming From Netflix

New SHE-RA Series Coming From Netflix

article