Review – Flatliners

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Remaking movies is more popular than ever as it seems like every movie or TV show from the 1980s and 90s is getting another chance at life. And more often than not these remakes are met with at least some level of resistance from the movie going public. “Another remake?” “Why can’t Hollywood have any original ideas?” “Why remake that one? The original was perfect!” So when a movie like Flatliners comes along, it seems like a rare example of a movie that would be idea for a remake. The original came out almost thirty years ago and it’s not really a movie that exists in the popular conscious anymore. Yes people are aware that it existed, but it’s not a movie that dominates our culture like other movies from around the same time period. But perhaps most importantly of all, the original movie was an interesting idea that in the end was still fundamentally flawed. There’s potential in the concept and it would be interesting to see someone tackle the subject matter of the original, perhaps with a different take, or something new to say. Remakes aren’t inherently a bad idea and there are plenty of movies that are calling out to be remade. Flatliners was definitely one of them, but this is not the remake that it was calling out for.

Courtney (Ellen Page) is the medical student who comes up with the idea of Flatlining this time around. Basically the idea is that Courtney’s fellow medical students will intentionally stop her heart, killing her for one minute and then bring her back. By doing this Courtney hopes to prove the existence of some kind of afterlife. Rounding out Team Flatliners is Jamie (James Norton), a self centered, arrogant frat boy character, Sophia (Kiersey Clemons), the smart, overworked, study hard bookish character,  Marlo (Nina Dobrev), another girl (sorry but there’s pretty much no character to work with on this one), and Ray (Diego Luna), the only one who’s opposed to the idea of flatlining. Courtney’s flatline works, and she does get glimpses of something beyond death, but what everyone ends up fixating on is that when she comes back, she’s able to do things she hadn’t before, recalling long forgotten information and other minor feats. This means that everyone else in the group (except for Ray) wants to flatline as well for all the perks that come with it.

Of course things can’t go well forever, and our flatlining heroes began to be haunted by things from their past. This is where the movie devolves into a standard, run of the mill, trope filled horror movie. Complete with scary hallways, doors that slam by themselves, electronics that have a mind of their own, things crashing in the other room, as far as a horror movie, Flatliners doesn’t offer you anything you haven’t seen a dozen times before.

And really, that might be what’s so frustrating about the whole movie. The whole reason that a remake of Flatliners would be interesting at all is because the original movie didn’t quite live up to the potential of the premise. But the updated version does the exact same thing. The whole “flatlining” concept is only really used as a plot device to say why these particular characters are being haunted and once the “scary parts” start, the focus is shifted away from “flatlining” almost entirely. The idea of an afterlife, or the discussion of the afterlife is dropped and then never really picked up again, as each character focuses on the horror from their past that’s come back. You could end up with the exact same second half of the movie if the characters all read the same forbidden passage from a book or all touched the same cursed amulet after midnight. The one really interesting idea that the movie presented gets abandoned, unresolved, so that the characters can stumble through the greatest hits of Horror Movie 101.

It’s honestly a little surprising to see Ellen Page in a movie like this, and her talents are frustratingly underutilized here. Nobody does a bad job when it comes to acting in the movie, but nobody’s really memorable either. The movie gives its main cast nothing to work with. The one exception is Diego Luna as Ray who gets a few moments to tackle the potential moral issues of killing your classmates even if you promise to try your best and bring them back a few minutes later. Luna, who like the rest of the cast is was underused, knocks these moments out of the park, but it’s like watching an all star player knock it out of a little league park. Luna is one of the better unknown talents working today (though perhaps less unknown since Rogue One came out last year) and it shows here, even if it’s only for a minute or two. But even so, it’s not enough to make you once again long for the movie that could have been instead of the movie that ended up being on the screen. I guess we’ll just have to wait till 2044 when the next Flatliners remake tries to fulfill the potential of this premise once again.

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