RESUSCITATION WORTHY? JUST
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Screenplay: Ben Ripley
Review: RJ Bland
A lot of people use Rotten Tomatoes to see how a film is being received before making a decision about whether to see it theatrically. I do it. If I am torn between two movies and one of them has got a significantly better rating then more often than not, my decision is usually made. Unless it's anything remotely genre that is, because as a horror site, we pretty much just have to risk it, otherwise we would certainly have evaded the remake of Flatliners. Last time we checked, it had a 4% score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is catastrophically bad. Even the goddamn Emoji Movie has a better rating than that.
I'll be perfectly honest. I haven't seen the original Flatliners and that fact may influence my overall reaction to the movie. The 1990 version, boasting a strong cast including Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts has become something of a cult favourite amongst some quarters of the horror fanbase. However, the general consensus appears to be that whilst it had a great central idea, a good cast and offered a few decent scares, it was a rather uneven affair and doesn't really warrant a place in the Horror Hall of Fame. However, that ain't gonna stop Hollywood remaking it in an attempt to make some more moolah now is it?!
The film is not a sequel as was originally rumoured, it is remake, make no doubts about that. Whilst it keeps the core plot points of its predecessor, it does however play around with the finer details. Sutherland's modern day equivalent is played by Ellen Page, a medical student who, after the death of her young sister nearly ten years ago, decides to do some extra curricular studies on the afterlife. So desperate is she to find out if there is one and if she can somehow make contact with her sister, she convinces a few of her fellow students to stop her heart and then after a couple of minutes, bring her back from the dead. Or flatlining as it becomes know throughout the movie. Whilst 'dead' she experiences an almost otherworldly journey which soon ends when her friends manage to resuscitate her. Once back in the land of the living, a couple of things happen; She becomes noticeably more intelligent (and she was pretty bright anyway!) and she's suddenly got the skillz of Chopin on a piano. Oh and she likes to run a lot too. In awe of her sudden skills upgrade, her fellow students follow suit and volunteer themselves for the same procedure (all except mature student Diego Luna that is). However, whilst it all seems like good, harmless fun at first, it soon becomes apparent that something is not quite right. Strange things begin to happen; hallucinations, objects moving, people from their past appearing. Is it just a benign side effect of flatlining or is it something more sinister than that? The latter of course!!
I errr...I didn't mind this. Don't get me wrong, this is a totally unextraordinary film that in a few years time you'll forget even existed but still, I am not sure it deserves quite the level of animosity it is getting from the critical community. However I think it's also an indicator that people are just generally getting a bit fed up with remakes (Pah! As if!). I think the point of most negative review out there is that ultimately, Flatliners is a pointless remake that brings nothing new or exciting to the table and should never have been made. I fully appreciate that if I had indeed seen the original, I might be of the same opinion. However, I find myself in the position that is usually reserved for people a lot younger than myself; seeing a remake before I've seen the original.
On paper, Flatliners has all the right ingredients to be a success. Firstly, the creative talent behind the film consists of experienced Danish Director Niels Arden Oplev, the guy who directed the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) as well as several episodes of Mr Robot and Midnight, Texas. And screenwriter Ben Ripley penned the script for the impressive sci-fi flick Source Code (2011). Add to that always brilliant Ellen Page and a talented young supporting cast and you can see why perhaps people expected more of this movie and I'd agree with that. With all those elements, Flatliners should be a better film than it is but it's still a very watchable and moderately effective sci-fi horror.
Oplev does a sound job, creating some interesting visuals during the 'flatlining' sections and he also handles the 'scary' scenes pretty well too. Admittedly, there aren't too many of these and they all come quite late in the film but still, there are one or two effective set pieces within Flatliners. Ripley's script is serviceable if not a little clunky at times. However, Page and her co-stars do their best with the material and none of them come out looking bad. Sure the characters are a little cliché but Ripley does at least try and flesh them out a little and let's us spend quite a bit of time with the group before things start to go wrong. It's this on-screen chemistry and energy between the leads that helps paper over the cracks a bit.
Of course, the film is far from perfect. Much of this is nothing new to audiences and I don't mean just those that have seen the original. It's feels like a mash up of Final Destination and I Know What You Did Last Summer, although the ambiguity of what's really 'after them' in Flatliners is a little refreshing it has to be said. It does take a little while to get going and the 'flatlining' scenes do get a little repetitive by the end. The third act never really gets beyond second gear either and the resolution is a little too easy for my liking. Towards the end the visuals get even more surreal too and the theme of the movie becomes a little overbearing. There are also a few absurdities that will irk and I don't even mean the 'back from the dead' concept. After Page's character has flatlined they all have a giant party and knock an interior wall down and then go outside in their underwear and frolic around in the snow. Later, when another of the group has successfully returned from flatlining, they all head out to an outdoor rave. Surely, that can't be a good for your heart after it was technically stopped for two minutes just an hour ago? Come on guys, you're medical students!
Still, those looking for a few inoffensive scares and a mildly engaging 100 minutes or so will probably quite enjoy this, as I did. It doesn't pretend to be anything more than a polished yet undemanding teen sci-fi flick and to that end it successfully achieves its purpose. If you are hoping for something intellectually challenging or original then this won't be for you and those who label it as a pointless remake may well have a point. However, if like me, you haven't seen the original, this probably won't seem as bad as the general critical consensus suggests.