In Flatliners, five medical students, hoping to gain insight into the mystery of what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring and dangerous experiment. By stopping their hearts for short periods of time, each triggers a near-death experience. As the investigation becomes more and more perilous, they are forced to confront the sins of their pasts, as well as contend with the paranormal consequences of trespassing to the other side (Rotten Tomatoes).
1 hour, 48 minutes
September 29, 2017
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Writer: Ben Ripley
Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland
Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
I was hoping to encounter something different despite the trailers’ tease. Unfortunately, the film is as basic and bad as its trailer as it portrays.
Violence/Scary Images: Though it is PG-13, some moments have scar images, jump scares, and occasional moments with blood. Though it is expected for each character to die and be brought back to life, it still is scary.
Language/Crude Humor: There are a couple of F-words and the group go to party scenes.
Sexual Content: Two of the main characters have sex in the bedroom. Though no detailed body parts are shown for both sides, it is still graphic nonetheless. Another couple begins passionately making out on top of the kitchen counter as they take each other’s shirts off and we come back to them later lying naked on a couch with a blanket covering them.
Drug/Alcohol References: The groups drinks at their parties together in a few scenes.
Spiritual Content: Though it does not deal primarily with spiritual demons, they are inner demons nonetheless. There are strong implications of seeking forgiveness, and putting honesty first even if it means losing what we want the most.
Positive Content: While God is hardly referenced, the biblical implications are surprisingly throughout the film regarding the confrontation of sin, forgiving oneself and others, and owning up to past actions.
For those who are unaware, Flatliner is a remake of the 1990 film with the same title that also starred Keifer Sutherland. Having no ties to the original Columbia Pictures film, this remake is its own and by that, I mean it is its own failure. The original Flatliner scored a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics and a 59% with audiences. Though it was not the best in terms of its score, it pulled off more than its 2017 remake which remains at a 3% with critics and a 42% with audiences.
For at least the first 45 minutes of the film, the premise and execution do keep audiences somewhat interested regarding the main plot of discovering life after death. This idea for decades let alone centuries has captivated scientists, doctors, and ordinary people alike, whether or not they are religious. Regardless of one’s background, it is nearly impossible to deny the stories that people have had first hand after dying for a couple of minutes, seeing a bright light and all.
The unfortunate downside for the first half and the rest of the film is that the characters are very one-dimensional. While some are hard working, others are portrayed as the stereotype rich kid who has all the money and time for medical school as they party and lives recklessly on the side. These type of characters remained uninteresting with the exception of Courtney (Ellen Page) and Ray (Diego Luna). Ellen Page portrays the medical student who is interested in pushing the boundaries of creating new discoveries for the sake of humanity. Ray, on the other hand, is the only one to really have common sense, despite his ego. As the plot carries out, he eventually becomes the one who carries the team forward, both with his character development and the fact that he is the only one encouraging and making the responsible decisions. As for the rest of the cast, they remain uninteresting before and after their Flatline experiences.
One may get the impression that each character goes Flatline multiple times, pushing their limits on staying dead for more than expected. This is not so. Rather than being something new compared to the original or being along the lines of Limitless (2011) where the characters embrace their new given abilities, audiences have to settle for a second-rate horror film that hardly leaves one scared. Flatline is another film concept that has great potential but is thrown away for the sake of a quick buck during a rather disappointing year for films so far.
While the spiritual implications became interesting for a period of time, the film eventually becomes preachy on the topic, ending with an unnecessary monologue about forgiving others and ourselves as we confront our past sins and the people we’ve wronged. It’s preachy, it’s predictable, and it’s boring along with a large amount of the film.
It is one thing for a studio to remake a classic film that people have known and loved in the past, even if the remake doesn’t do as well. It doesn’t make much sense, however, to remake a film that was hardly good the first time around. Just an unnecessary reason to try and make audiences scared on the edge of their seats. If you really want a good horror movie, IT is probably the next theater room over.
+ Spiritual connection regarding forgiveness and life after death
- One-dimensional characters
- Unecessary main plot points
- Preachy monologue ending
- Lack of depth for the sake of horror