Flatliners spoilers below!
Recently released Flatliners remakes the 90s film of the same name, giving it a somewhat questionable psychological horror twist. The film follows a group of medical students who experiment with ‘flatlining’ and reviving each other to try and document near-death experiments. The group then finds themselves haunted by a mysterious entity.
Is Flatliners as bad as most critics make it out to be? Not entirely. The film’s problem is that with all the genres it mixes, it has no strengths in any genre. It’s all around mediocre, by drama standards, science fiction standards, and even horror standards which are already pretty low. Flatliners doesn’t know what type of film it really wants to be, and this is evident on screen.
Elements of horror permeate the film and give it nominal moments of suspense. Most scenes that attempt to be frightening are lackluster. It’s not for lack of trying; Ellen Page does her best to seem terrified, and the film’s visuals are eerie as her character is chased by the supernatural entity. It’s just not really scary.
The one exception here is Nina Dobrev’s scenes. Whatever was haunting these students really hated Marlo (Dobrev’s character.) A particularly horrifying moment of the film comes when Marlo is haunted while in the hospital’s morgue, seeing dead bodies and other figures moving in the dark. Other than that, there’s little in Flatliners to make it a memorable horror film.
There’s not much noteworthy about the film’s sci-fi and psychological aspects either. Despite its efforts to jump around and appeal to as wide an audience as possible, Flatliners is nothing if not predictable. Each of the medical students who flatlined is terrorized by their own experiences with death. Courtney with the death of her sister, Marlo with the death of a patient, Jamie (James Norton) with his child he paid to have aborted, etc. Shockingly, the end comes together with each character needing to forgive themselves and move on. Yawn.
For a fairly well established cast, Flatliners boasts horror-worthy performances. Drama and tensions starts off high, with Courtney enticing students to join her experiments, but after her death, the film sloughs through the second hour of its runtime bordering between boring and momentarily exciting. The only real excitement, though, is wondering when the med students would learn their lesson and the film would be over.
Flatliners was barely able to keep viewers’ attention in a theater, where the film had less to compete with. I imagine it would be nearly impossible to not get distracted by something more interesting when the film makes its home release. The original Flatliners was a mixed bag in and of itself, making this remake entirely unnecessary. The fact that the 2017 version did nothing to elevate the story just adds insult to injury.