2017, PG-13, 108 min. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Starring Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Madison Brydges, Kiefer Sutherland.
REVIEWED By Danielle White, Fri., Oct. 6, 2017
Flatlining is a little bit like playing with a Ouija board: It opens a portal to all sorts of demons who might come along and mess up your life. Both offer a sort of payoff in knowing what is (or isn’t) waiting on the Other Side. Leave it to a group of cocky med students to take things a little too far, as they compete over who can stay dead the longest. That’s more or less the premise of 1990’s Flatliners, which has been exhumed inexplicably for a shitty remake. (Reboot? Sequel? Whatever.)
Ringleader Courtney (Page) casually enlists peers Jamie (Norton) and Sophia (Clemons) to help with her morbid experiment in a scene that feels rushed and weird. It has an amateurish acting class vibe: Clemons’ nail-biting reads weak and contrived; Norton brings zero charm to a character who is supposed to be some type of sexpot. Meanwhile, Marlo (Dobrev) and Ray (Luna) are meant to provide some romantic friction, in that hate-you-but-really-love-you way, but they failed to convince me that they even like each other let alone want to get busy. Kiefer Sutherland (looking like someone dragged him out of a crypt) has a small role as one of the teacher/doctors, who may or may not be Nelson from the original, but there’s nothing storywise that makes that connection. (Although there has been talk of a significant scene that was deleted because only the old people got it. … Rude.)
Although the new script notably adds some diversity to the roster, it otherwise follows nearly every original plot point, from the characters’ backstories to the soaring depictions of the afterworld (only this time with bad CGI, sterilized set-pieces, and smartphones). After the clique first starts taking turns at doing the death, they briefly develop superpowers, in a hitch that presents itself like a trap door – for one fleeting moment we could have had a very different film. Instead, the action resorts to cheap-shot scare tactics: eerie whispers, bloated ghosts, technology gone haywire, etc. This movie is what might happen if Grey’s Anatomy crossed frequencies with What Lies Beneath, but that actually sounds like it might be good, and this is not. Considering the other options on the horror menu at the multiplex right now, it was no wonder the theatre was empty. If you find Flatliners to be conceptually interesting (which it is), stay home and rent the original.