FLATLINERS (October 4th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
I feel a mixture of things when I hear that somebody has seen the remake of a classic before actually watching the original. Mainly disappointment and frustration. Imagine seeing Rupert Wainwright's The Fog before seeing Carpenter's. Or either of the sucky Black Christmas remakes/updates before seeing the Bob Clark version? It doesn't bear thinking about. Well, I really should get off my high horse because I'm guilty of it too. Cape Fear, Dawn of the Dead, The Haunting. I saw all of the remakes before the (better) original versions. I've since rectified all of those but there are still a few out there that I need to fix. This wasn't the reason I chose Joel Schumacher's Flatliners (1990) as this evening's watch, but you know it is another one to cross off the list.
Now one of the things that happens when you see a remake before the original is that you have no yardstick to measure it against. And that's both a good and a bad thing to some degree. Without the connection to the first, it's difficult to appreciate how successfully it has been 'updated' but on the other hand, it's easier to be a bit more objective if you haven't got the experience of the original tainting your viewing experience. Perhaps that's why I didn't mind Niels Arden Oplev's Flatliners when it came out a couple of years ago. Yes it was disposable and rather generic but it was still somewhat entertaining. But how does it compare to its predecessor?
Well the original is just as flawed to tell you the truth. Perhaps even more so. But you know what, I kind of loved it. For those who know nothing about Flatliners or who have simply forgotten what it's about, here's the crux; a group of medical students – headed up by a guy called Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland) attempt to find out if there is life beyond death by killing Nelson and resuscitating him a few minutes later to get a first hand account of what happens after we die. The experiment is a success and Nelson is brought back to life and is able to confirm that he experienced something after his brain had technically shut down. However, there are side effects of this near death experience and soon Nelson is haunted by troubling visions and ghosts from his past. Instead of informing the others, he keeps his ordeal to himself and after the rest of the gang undergo the same death-revival experiment, they all start having similar experiences...
I'm fully aware that my affection for this film is in large part down to the cast and the general tone and look of this movie, but so what? There are some clear logic gaps in Flatliners and it doesn't fully realise the potential of its intriguing premise. It was never a critically acclaimed film upon its release but it has definitely become a bit of a cult movie and I'd happily consider myself a part of this little cabal. First off, whoever was in charge of casting deserves a medal. Sutherland is as intense as you'd expect, Julia Roberts gives glimpses of why she would go on to be such a big star in the decade and Kevin Bacon is effortlessly charming with his long hair and abseiling out of windows antics. Oliver Platt provides the comedy whilst Stephen Baldwin just mopes around apparently missing his girlfriend who is at another campus, whilst simultaneously sleeping with (and secretly filming) tonnes of other chicks. He's like the Joey Tribbiani of the film.
Joel Schumacher makes this film what it is though. A campy, frenetic, slightly unfocused rollercoaster ride. Flatliners may rely somewhat on the charm and energy of its main players but there is no doubt that most people that love the film do so because of the way the film looks – and a lot of that is down to the cinematography of Jan De Bont. Red and blue light floods the screen on numerous occasions, for no rhyme or reason. Flashbacks, hallucinations, scenes in cars, in apartments, on the street. Steam and fog seem to emanate from every possible crevice. There's a gothic, sometimes catholic veneer to a lot of it all and the operatic score just piles on more drama and theatrics to it all too. I sort of think that the film has to be treated as as viewing experience. If you let it all wash over you and commit to the ride then you'll have a good time. If you start digging too deep into character motivations or how well everything actually fits together by the end then you risk ruining the illusion somewhat.
Flatliners is a hip, super cool, popcorn muncher and I dug every over-the-top every minute of it. I'm pretty sure this is one I will dig out again at some point for repeat viewing.