FLATLINERS gets 5/10 Do not resuscitate

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
Starring Ellen Page, Diego Luna, James Norton, Kiefer Sutherland

5/10

Based on the 1990 Joel Schumacher film of the same name, this remake slash sequel (Kiefer Sutherland appears to be the same character in both iterations) follows roughly the same plot as the original. Here, as then, a group of medical students begin to investigate the idea of near death experiences by stopping their hearts, before being revived by their friends. This time under ring leader Courtney (Ellen Page), the group experience a euphoric high, and seem enriched by “flatlining”, be that unlocking memories or gaining new-found confidence. However something from their past is also haunting them, a feeling like they have brought something back with them by leaving a door open.

The question is, why remake this film at all? The original 1990 version, always had a weak plot, but gained success by having a strong cast of upcoming and “of the moment” stars (Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt) combined with a stylish director. Although this does repeat that formula to some extent (Ellen Page, Diego Luna), it also brings the horror elements ever so slightly more into the foreground. The result is increasingly lacklustre and demonstrative in just how weak a concept this really is. Consequently the last half of the film drags, undoing a lot of good work done with establishing the cast, and just the charisma of a number of the actors.

Really it’s Flatliners‘ execution of those horror elements that ultimately sinks it as a film. They are enacted with every horror cliché on display. There is always a ghostly figure lurking just behind the shoulder of a protagonist, or flitting across the room behind shot. A little familiarity with the genre, and you would easily be able to call out every jump scare, every ominous moment seconds before they happen. Its pedestrian execution is also not helped that ultimately the pay-off is weak, and the conclusion doesn’t land with the force to make Flatliners work.

Despite the complaints, this is a slick production, and the cast does demonstrate a fair degree of charisma, at least during the first half. Before things get too serious with elements of the afterlife haunting them, there is a certain joy to be had, just hanging with these characters and seeing them high on life… death?… afterlife?… whatever chemical cocktail is coursing through their brain due to the near death experience. Page conveys a good level of intensity in her performance. Both Diego Luna and James Norton sculpt likeable characters out of pretty detestable clay, although oddly enough from different ends of the spectrum. Luna is too good to be true, while Norton is an out of control trust fund kid. Both should be just awful, but the actors manage to imbue them with a decent charisma.

A slick, but ultimately middling version. The definition of an unnecessary remake, this will likely vanish from memory soon after it fades from cinema screens. If not before.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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