One of humanity’s biggest unanswered questions is, “What happens after we die?” Do we go to a heaven-like paradise or are we doomed to stay in the ground for eternity? Out of all of the unnecessary sequels and remakes, Flatliners seemed worth revamping. Its 1990 predecessor boasted a pretty cast with Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland but wasn’t remembered as a cult classic. The studios had nothing to lose by going back to this franchise. But the lack of press screenings raised many red flags about the project. As the saying goes, “Always trust your gut.” Originally billed as a sequel to Joel Schumacher’s 1990 psychological horror, Flatliners is a weak remake in disguise, attempting to explore the consequences of questing into the unknown but is bogged by a tortuous first act and thinly drawn characters.
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, Flatliners follows a group of five medical students determined to survive the most competitive years of their lives. Courtney (Ellen Page) has a theory that they can prove an existence of an afterlife by mapping out the changes in the brain after they die. Courtney volunteers to be the guinea pig for the experiment and has her classmates stop her heart and resuscitate it after one minute of death. Suddenly, Courtney has a supercharged memory and can recall everything she ever learned.
Jealous of her memory boost, Marlo (Nina Dobrev), Jamie (James Norton), and Sophia (Kiersey Clemon) want in on the action. The older and wiser Ray (Diego Luna) is the only one to deny the offer. He’s only there to help if they screw up (which they inevitably do). At first, the results are extraordinary; the team gets to study, screw, and party like no other. However, their fun quickly comes to an end when they start to experience hallucinations and nightmares about people they have wronged in the past.
Screenwriter Ben Ripley (writer of the mediocre Source Code) takes an interesting science fiction concept and turns it into a generic bore. The superpower perks were exciting for a bit but were completely abandoned in favor of horror tropes. There are cheap jump scares and girls with hair in their faces lurking about. It’s so utterly predictable and makes itself practically identical to other 2017 horror flops (anyone remember The Bye Bye Man?). The hallucinations themselves are also very gimmicky and show that CGI was clearly not in the budget.
For anyone who has seen the original Flatliners, there’s no reason to see this remake because it hardly covers any new ground. Even if they’re not familiar with the franchise, there’s still no reason to seek this film out. With a PG-13 rating (the original was R), the story is licked clean of any compelling content. Thankfully, science fiction is making a real comeback, and we don’t have to worry about movies like Flatliners slowly down the progress.