By: Christian Harding (Four Beers) –
Sony gonna Sony. Whatever sense of creativity or originality their film company may have once possessed has now been diluted down to a revolving door of endless remakes and reboots of their previously established properties, whether anybody was asking for them or not. These have ranged from the failed The Amazing Spider-Man series, to the infamous Ghostbusters reboot, and even the unexpectedly good remake of The Magnificent Seven. This brings us up to speed with Sony’s latest attempt at reviving one of their older properties in Flatliners, a half remake, half soft-reboot of the 1990 Joel Schumacher horror/sci-fi vehicle, complete with a returning cast member (Keifer Sutherland) who surprisingly doesn’t reprise his role from the original film (or perhaps he did in an earlier cut of the film). Like most of the other modern remakes we’ve been forced to acknowledge over the past decade and a half, it’s a slick, well-polished, and competently made Hollywood product that takes zero chances and is perfectly content aiming right down the middle. Nothing new in that regard, but you’ve probably seen a lot worse than this – and you may take that however you like.
If you’ve seen or at least heard of the original film, then you’re already aware of how ludicrous the premise of Flatliners is, but for those who remain unawares, it concerns a group of medical students who suddenly become preoccupied with the sensation of having their hearts stopped and being revived after a few moments, especially when it’s discovered that peering onto the other side seemingly enhances the brain activity of whomever does the “flatlining” (and yes, they do refer to it as such for the entire film). It goes further from there into some supernatural and horror-lite areas, but you get the gist. In the casting department, the film is more or less hard to fault. It’s good to see Ellen Page back in a starring role, and she does a solid enough job here, for what she’s given. Diego Luna unfortunately has yet to be cast in the Jabba the Hutt spinoff he apparently wants so badly, but he’s well utilized here as the sole voice of reason in the whole cast. Rounding out the leads are Nina Dobrev, Kiersey Clemons, and James Norton, all of whom do a perfectly fine job with what amounts to some pretty underwritten roles.
“I just really want to touch Yabba…”
Let me state for the record that I am, in fact, not a doctor. But as a Joe Everyman with the most basic, commonplace understanding of medical practice and implementations of such, even I was getting irritated by the level of unprofessional and irresponsible behavior of these “doctors” – and not even when it comes to the central gimmick of flatlining (damn, now they got me doing it). Even the most standard, everyday medical practices are bungled by these wannabe Victoria’s Secret models posing as med students. I understand that film logic dictates that certain liberties must be taken and corners cut for the greater good of storytelling, but suspension of disbelief can only grant you so much forgiveness. And when the actions of these characters would not only result in their expulsion, but possible incarceration in certain circumstances, and yet they continue to get away with everything without lasting consequences (apparently being responsible for the accidental death of a patient under your care AND altering the report to cover you own ass only gets you on academic probation at worst), then you’ve broken whatever viewer/film trust we had, which wasn’t much to begin with, considering the goofy-as-hell central premise we’re dealing with here.
Oh yeah, this was also supposed to be a horror film, wasn’t it? Uhmm… I guess so. To be perfectly frank and honest, I think the film itself forgot as well. For the entire first act of this film, there isn’t a single moment, shot, musical cue, etc. to indicate whatsoever that this was going to teeter into spook-house territory. But once the titular gimmick gets underway, Flatliners takes a sudden shift into your token, generic PG-13 horror nonsense. And given the otherworldly elements of the premise, the people behind this film couldn’t even be bothered to provide us with any creative or substantial imagery to depict it all. Just some glossy, forgettable CGI pastels that I guess are meant to symbolize the afterlife or something? I dunno. Clearly I’m putting more thought into this than anyone involved in the project seemed to.
Actual photo of a Sony studio exec after seeing what the Rotten Tomatoes score for this was.
This is just one detail of the entire film, but it deserves its own beer: I just wanted to make sure that we all know that once your heart stops and blood is no longer flowing to the brain, your brain cells start dying off after a short period of time. Common knowledge, yes? And if your heart stops and you’re out for a full seven or eight minutes, you can’t just come back to life with the exact same amount of consciousness and brain activity as before, right? OK, just checking.
Overall, Flatliners is a wholly unnecessary and toothless remake of its flawed but otherwise perfectly solid original. It doesn’t use its creative central premise to its fullest potential, but the actors all do a solid enough job at selling the completely ludicrous proceedings. At the very least, this reviewer certainly wouldn’t say it’s deserving of the measly 0% rating it’s received on Rotten Tomatoes; but if that’s the level of venom and vitriol it takes to end Sony’s parade of unnecessary remakes and reboots, then who am I to complain?
Flatliners (2017) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: every time one of the characters “flatlines”.
Do another Shot: for each jump scare.
Shotgun a Beer: whenever there’s a reference to the original film.
Finish your Glass: each time you notice a completely false scientific fact or inaccurate medical practice.