Joel Schumaker‘s movie Flatliners featured a great cast (including a newly minted superstar Julia Roberts) and was a minor hit. The movie was decent, but in no way did it scream “remake”. Yet here we are 27 years later, and the powers that be have decided to give us an update to a film no one was asking for. After watching it, I can say without hesitation that this is one movie that should have stayed dead.
The plot of the remake is pretty much exactly the same as it was back in 1990. A group of five med students decide to experiment with what happens in the period after you die. The take turns killing each other and being brought back to life. While their time in death seems to open their minds to all sorts of new experiences, it also brings back something else. Something is going after the students by making them relive their greatest regrets. They slowly start going crazy trying to distinguish between what is real and what is just a figment of their imagination.
While most of the cast of the 90’s version of Flatliners were still more or less at the beginning of their careers, the actors this time are starring in a movie that is well below their pay grade. Each and every one of them gives possibly the worst performance of their careers. Even Kiefer Sutherland, star of the original, gives a thankless performance in what is basically an extended cameo – he is given a bad grey dye job and a cane for no other reason than to make him look old (I assume). Every single one of the people in this dud deserve better.
The new Flatliners doesn’t seem to know exactly what type of movie it is. The first half is medical drama and then it suddenly veers into straight up horror movie. It was a scary movie with a few dramatic scenes, or a drama with a few jump scares it could work. Unfortunately, the quick about face completely destroys any dramatic moment. I know it was supposed to a thriller, but the way it is laid out it just doesn’t work. Watching a couple of characters come to a realization about their life and then suddenly having them run for their life in a Final Destination ripoff is distracting.
I usually try and find at least one positive in movies that I don’t care for, but I can say it was somewhat of a struggle to find one this time. If I absolutely had to pick one, I guess I’d say that some of the “after death” effects were fairly well done. Considering how little these effects were used, it has zero impact on my opinion of the film as a whole.
Dramatic scenes that seem like they were fished from a trash bin in the writer’s room of a cancelled soap opera. Scary scenes that are about as terrifying as a puppy wearing a teddy bear suit. Performances that are on par with the stars of your average high school play. There really is nothing to recommend about this remake. Avoid it if you can.