Cast: Ellen Page, Nina Dobrev, Diego Luna, James Norton, and Kiersey Clemons
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
110 minutes (15) 2017
Widescreen ratio 2.39:1
Sony Blu-ray region B
Review by Christopher Geary
Long before Soul Survivors (2001) and the Final Destination (2000-11) franchise, fantasy thriller Flatliners (1990), a notable supernatural horror about death warmed up, bought a rash of mortal fears and weird confrontations with dark forces to an afterlife investigation, and established a subgenre cycle where a mysterious 'something' comes back with flat-line returnees from the next world, to perform a dramatic function as a terminal antagonist in grim reaper mode. “It’s a good day to die.”
Niels Arden Oplev, director of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009), helms this sadly anonymous remake with Kiefer Sutherland, star of the original movie in 1990, portraying a senior doctor in a teaching hospital where four unwary medical students repeat the same risky games against mortality. But, of course, there’s a downside to their flat-line experiences and “side effects may include... existential dread”. Guilty consciences, and the lingering weight of past sins, drive these young doctors to meet their apparently doomed fates. Will even a heartfelt apology and attempts to make amends help ward off attacks by any scary retribution from beyond the grave, or cancel the deadly re-balancing that’s needed for a seemingly demonic payback in individual morality plays?
Although an argument might be made in favour of viewing this genre movie as a feminist revision of the original Flatliners, starring Ellen Page (Super, Inception, Whip It, Juno, X-Men: The Last Stand, Hard Candy, TV sci-fi show ReGenesis), and Nina Dobrev (TV series Vampire Diaries, xXx: Return Of Xander Cage), obviously leading a new cast, the director attempts something that’s both effectively more subtle (this is not a feminist remake like Paul Feig’s recent comedy Ghostbusters), and yet rather less interesting than the original Flatliners.
Here, MRI brain scans replace the original picture’s EKG readings, but just like the 1990’s mystery movie, karma suggests that remorse and atonement might solve any regrettable personality problems. There’s an out-of-body trip, floating through a church, but radically fewer god and religious references in this Flatliners remake where psychic awakening is a priority for academic advantage and professional advancement, without clearly ‘spiritual’ dimensions, despite creepy phantasms haunting the flat-line experiments’ survivors.
The year 1990 when the original Flatliners was made saw a genre stable-mate production in Adrian Lyne’s similarly themed Jacob’s Ladder, also just remade. All of these variations aside, the ultimate movie of this kind of adventure, where science investigates ‘the other side’, has already been made. It was Ken Russell’s masterpiece, Altered States (1980).