If you were a fan of Joel Schumacher’s sci-fi horror film, Flatliners (1990), then chances are you were excited to hear that there was a sequel in the works for the storyline.
Flatliners (2017), directed by Niels Arden Oplev, was released in theaters on September 29. I remember watching the 1990’s version at my uncle’s house during a movie night a few years ago, so I thought it would be interesting to see how the story progressed in the newest version.
Whenever I see a movie in theaters, I tend not to do much research prior to watching it and for Flatliners, I only knew what the trailer showed me, the 1990’s premise on which the movie was based and the idea that this new version was a sequel rather than a remake.
After leaving the theater, I was more than a little disappointed by what I saw.
Once again, as with all new movies that you may plan on watching, this review is littered with spoilers both for the 1990’s movie and 2017’s version.
1990’s Flatliners featured Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, and William Baldwin as medical students who collectively agreed to conduct a dangerous experiment on themselves in the hopes of discovering whether there truly is an afterlife.
Each medical student who flatlines encounters a vision of someone who represents a past guilt of theirs. These visions range from people who have died to erotic hallucinations. Later on in the film each student, who has flatlined, is consequently haunted by those exact same visions with each encounter growing more and more hostile.
It’s revealed that in order to rid themselves of what haunts them, each student must make amends with the person their hallucinations are centered on.
With 2017’s Flatliners, the new cast lineup was Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, and Kiersey Clemons. That, to me, was where the differences ended between both films.
Rather than seeing a sequel of the 1990’s Flatliners, 2017’s Flatliners was merely a remake of the original with nothing more to add to the story’s progression.
The movie appears to follow Courtney (Ellen Page), the movie’s main protagonist, as she digs deep into what happens to the human brain immediately following death. This is verbatim to Nelson Wright’s (Kiefer Sutherland) quest in the 1990’s movie, except with the addition that Courtney’s interest seems to stem from her role in a tragic car accident that killed her sister.
Courtney and Jaime’s (James Norton) encounters with “flatlining” result in an immediate, euphoric sensation that was “kinda sexual,” as Courtney recounts. In addition, both inexplicably have their minds expanded to recollect everything they’ve learned, which they use to their advantage in their work as medical students and other extracurricular activities, such as playing “Claire de Lune” on the piano.
However, the focus of the story abruptly shifts away from Courtney about half-way into the film, she is killed by the vision of her sister, who had died in the car accident they were both involved in and that Courtney blamed herself heavily for.
The protagonist of the film then became Marlo (Nina Dobrev) and the struggles she faces in owning up to her guilt, disguising the fact that the true cause of death in one of her patients was a medicinal mistake on her part.
She is also introduces the turning point of the film when she flatlines for three minutes, gradually losing her euphoric visions and replacing them with the ominous environment of her guilty conscious, thus indicating that there is something darker lurking in what initially was a medical experiment.
Both Courtney and Marlo are representative of what Nelson Wright brought to the original film and suddenly having Marlo thrust in my face after accepting Courtney as the protagonist gave me mental whiplash.
The rest of the characters also fell into stereotypical group categories almost abruptly. Jaime was a bona fide, wealthy frat boy with nothing to offer the medicinal word, Ray (Diego Luna) was the smartest one of the bunch, both in common sense and in medicine, and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) was the overachiever solely interested in getting the highest grades possible. It was extremely hard for me to connect with any of them except maybe Ray.
The final message of the film was that it wasn’t enough to make amends with whoever you hurt,but you also had to forgive yourself for the hurt you caused. This was more preachy than it was effective and I’ve seen so many films portray the exact same message that it was enough for me to roll my eyes in the theater.
Keifer Sutherland was initially said to make a return to Flatliners to reprise his role as Nelson Wright. Though his cameo appearance was a nice little wink to the audience about the original film, he not only didn’t reprise his role – he is credited as Dr. Barry Wolfson – but his character lacked any new elements to the film and rendered him completely irrelevant to the plot.
Even the horror aspect of the movie grew tiresome with every weak jump-scare it presented.
As of September 30, the day after it’s theatrical release, Rotten Tomatoes has it rated at 0% with a 45% audience enjoyment rating.
In my opinion, 2017’s Flatliners was an unnecessary film. Watch the 1990’s version, folks. I promise you, you’re not missing anything with this remake.