Now I could start this review extolling the virtue of original filmmaking, but that sentiment has been beaten to double death ages ago, so let’s just jump right in and talk about Flatliners the 1990 version. I saw it once in a religious education class, it was supposed to tell us about the afterlife and the interpretation of such ideas, blah blah blah. It was an okay movie, with a sort of cool premise, a decent cast and an interesting production design. I can’t really remember it that well to be honest. When I heard that they were making another film, to be released in 2017, I was sort of intrigued; I liked the premise of the original, and I have gotten more into horror since then, so I suppose I was mildly optimistic, especially with Ellen Page as the lead. So the question is, was I let down by expectations or did Flatliners 2017 get my pulse racing with fright?
This is a sequel rather than a remake, in which Courtney Holmes, a medical student in a prestigious medical school, invites her classmates to help her with an experiment. They are going to kill her, then bring her back so she can map a near-death experience on a brain scan. However, when she and her friends come back something returns with them.
Flatliners 2017 is straight up bad, with a capital B. The crew and cast of the film are talented people. Niels Arden Oplev is the man who directed the original Girl With The Dragon Tatoo, while the cast consists of Ellen Page, of Juno and Inception fame, Diego Luna, from Star Wars Rogue One and James Norton who was in Belle, Mr Turner and Happy Valley. However, despite these talented people Flatliners looks and feels exactly like a soap opera.
The writing is terrible with a shallow plot, awkward lines and unlikable, self-serving characters who you cannot connect with. They are privileged rich kids romping around not caring about the damage they do. After the cast flatline, the movie suggests they are enlightened, making the act of killing yourself to be like taking LSD, but that enlightenment also leads to some of the weirdest stuff I have ever seen. There are two scenes in which our leads could almost be charged with reckless and dangerous behaviour, and it is supposed to be charming. I did not find it charming; I thought that it was silly and tonally off.
The plot has that sort of melodramatic feel; when each character reveals what is haunting them it is riddled with clichés, or it comes out of left field completely with no setup or satisfying conclusion. The Casanova feels guilty about getting someone pregnant and not being there for them, the competitive nerd feels guilty about destroying someone else’s high school life, the career-focused doctor feels guilty for, I am not sure what they are guilty of, but it doesn’t really matter. Also that ending, I can’t go into it because that would be spoiling it, but I can’t really explain how much of a strange cop out it was, because try as I may I cannot get my head around it.
There is a cheapness to the film as well, despite the fancy looking sets that suggest a shallow attempt to cash in on the name of the 1990 original rather than making Flatliners 2017 its own film. The film looks and feels more like a first-time filmmaker with not enough money thought about making a Flatliners sequel but didn’t have the time or talent to get a consistency of tone and place, instead relying on clichéd jump scares and “woe is me” dialogue from poorly written and poorly acted characters.
But is it scary, I would say yes, but it doesn’t have proper scares. It startles, it is full of jumps scares and stupid clichéd sound stings that make you jump out of your seat for a second then you’re more annoyed than disturbed.
The quality of Flatliners may not be the fault of the crew and cast but it is clear that Flatliners flatlined some time ago in development and what we got was a soap opera rather than a film that was dead on arrival.
You can watch Flatliners in Cinemas now