Flatliners (2017) is a remake of Flatliners (1990) and, if nothing else, may have you reconsidering the cultural import of Joel Schumacher’s flawed-but-fun original. The story revolves around five medical students who, for reasons both obvious yet somehow also thinly-written, want to explore what happens after you die. Courtney (Ellen Page) is the first to cross over to the other side and returns with a “vaguely sexual” impression of the great beyond, and is also suddenly better at remembering recipes for bread, how to play the piano and medical jargon. It’s death as a study aid and naturally her ambitious med student pals, Jamie (James Norton), Marlo (Nina Dobrev), Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) and Rudy (Diego Luna), want in on the action.
What follows is a bland, flatly executed and joyless slog that manages to take elements of the original Flatliners, Final Destination and every single ghost movie since the mid 2000s and squander them in an inert tale that fails to leave any real impression. The concept of exploring what happens after we die is a great one, and in better hands – with a better script – this could have been a cracking little yarn. Instead what we have is a poor man’s retread of a better film that, let’s be real: wasn’t exactly a masterpiece to begin with.
Kiefer Sutherland cameos as Nelson (which was also his name in the original) but it’s either an empty bit of fan service or a callback whose payoff was left on the cutting room floor. Flatliners is the kind of film that makes it easy to make sweeping statements like “all remakes are bad”, which simply isn’t true. John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly are both remakes that expanded upon the premise of the original and explored new concepts in stunningly effective ways.
Flatliners, however, seems content to sit in the same beige-coloured bargain bin as Point Break (2015), RoboCop (2014) and Carrie (2013). It’s the kind of film you’ll forget even exists in five years so why not cut out the middleman and just forget it now?
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