Weekly Review: Flatliners (2017)

A group of medical students embarks on a dangerous experiment to see what happens when we die. By stopping their hearts for short periods of time, they trigger their own near-death-experiences. In doing so, they open a door to the other side that forces them to face the sins of their pasts.

When I first saw the trailer for Flatliners (2017), I was very intrigued. I loved the editing in the trailer, and I loved the use of classical music too. My interest was piqued. I didn’t get to see it in theaters because life was just very busy at that time, but since I had a bit of a wait for the Blu-Ray release, I took the time to see the original film first.

The original Flatliners from 1990 has a cast of characters that are still well known today. They’re all familiar faces: Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Billy Baldwin and Oliver Platt. It’s really not a fantastic movie. It’s average, maybe slightly below average. It feels very empty, very slow. The concept is very thought provoking though, and I can see why it became a cult classic and spawned a remake nearly 30 years later.

I really wanted to like this remake. I was hoping they would expand on the thought provoking subject matter, and I was hoping that they would increase the energy to keep it engaging throughout. I could see, after watching the original, that this remake would most likely amp up the paranormal aspects and lean more toward being a thriller than I felt the original was.

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Unfortunately, I don’t feel that the remake was successful in that regard. It certainly did amp up the energy. It was engaging throughout the entire run time for me. In the end though, the story in the 2017 version felt really hollow. This is a good example of how flash isn’t everything.

Flatliners (2017) has a very beautiful cast. It stars Ellen Page (Juno, Inception), Diego Luna (Rogue One, Y Tu Mamá También), Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), James Norton (Happy Valley, War & Peace), and Kiersey Clemons (Dope, Justice League). It also has a nice cameo appearance by Kiefer Sutherland.

For most of the movie, I was happy with how it kept me engaged. The hospital setting is more believable. There are more extras, so I feel more life in the story. Most of the scare attempts fall flat though, so that is a bit disappointing. Most of the scares are based off of current fads in the genre, like being dragged across the floor, so they don’t really last. There are many occurrences where they could have relied on psychological dread instead, but alas, they do not.

Through most of the movie, they follow the plot laid by the original very closely. The only difference is that the original is most definitely a drama, and this movie is attempting to be a thriller. Flatliners (2017) doesn’t allow for the same emotional weight that the original has. Despite this, it still attempts to go along with the theme of redemption, and this causes it to continually fall flat on its face.

Toward the end of the movie, the story finally makes a drastic departure from the original. If they had just committed to this change, I could have forgiven the hollow feeling of it all. I could have looked at this movie as a horror film, instead of a drama. Instead, the story rapidly backpedals in order to hit the same beats as the original all the way through to the end. This makes it feel even more hollow than it already did.

When I finished the original 1990 Flatliners, I knew that this remake was not going to be the same. It wasn’t going to have the same emotion. It wasn’t being marketed that way. I wasn’t expecting it to try to shoe horn that emotion in anyway though. The missed opportunities in this film actually made me a bit angry, to be honest.

It could have been so much better, whether it stuck to the beats of the original or it took the original at face value and went in the horror direction, it could have been better. Sometimes you just need to commit to something instead of balancing on the middle ground. Flatliners would have benefitted from choosing a side.

In the end, I was really disappointed by this movie. It just could have been so much better.

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