I’ve been looking forward to Flatliners. I loved the original film so much that I was hoping against hope that it would be amazing. But signs were bad. Remakes of cool movies from the 80s and 90s don’t have a great track record (remember the Total Recall remake? ‘Cause I sure don’t). Also Flatliners didn’t have a rating on Rotten Tomatoes when I looked. I’m guessing there was a review moratorium – bad films prevent bad reviews in hopes of drawing numbers that they don’t deserve. IMDB gives a writing credit was to Peter Filardi, who wrote the original, but that was just for the story. The actual screenplay was by Ben Ripley, the man who gave us Species III.
Five medical students, obsessed by what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring experiment: by stopping their hearts for short periods, each triggers a near-death experience – giving them a firsthand account of the afterlife.
I hated this film. Hated it. I’m not going to avoid spoiling things here, so if you really want to be surprised by the plot, dig up the 1990s original and watch it. I’m not sure what they were setting out to do with this remake, whether they actually thought they could improve on the original or this was a naked cash grab from the start, I couldn’t tell you. But while the potential was there, the execution was godawful. The plot points were contrived, character motivations were wooden and they killed the main character halfway through in slasher-flick style. The pacing was weird, while every plot point was exactly where it should be, Flatliners (remake) became a genre at each one of them, going from Medical Drama to speculative fiction to horror to redemption story without any justification or reasonable segue. At least it was under two hours.
I don’t understand how they couldn’t get this right. There was an entire movie in 1990 that worked, they could have just copied the entire script from beginning to end and it would have worked better than this did. Yes, the special effects were better in places. And there were some good moments that weren’t in the original, it’s true. Maybe the tone of this one fits better with a modern sensibility (I’ll have to watch the original and see). It is true that the concept of flatlining, stopping someone’s heart and then restarting it (for science!) works much better in a modern setting with MRIs and 3D imaging. They really portrayed the stress of being a medical student, the competition and impossible standards.
I liked the acting. There was a moment early on in the film where I noticed that this Flatliners immediately and repeatedly passed the Bechdel test. Diego Luna was awesome, he acted as though he were in a much better movie. Maybe his character was written better, maybe he just has better acting chops, maybe he was just really committed, but whatever it was, he stood out. James Norton also stood out, that man is handsome and took off his shirt a lot. He’s no Young William Baldwin but he’ll do in a pinch. Kiefer Sutherland was there. I think it was there to add legitimacy to this remake. You know what would have actually added legitimacy? Better writing.
So is Flatliners (2017) worth watching? Absolutely not. Don’t even watch it if it comes on TV, this film shouldn’t have been made. Sure there are worse films, even worse films this year, but at least they weren’t pretending to be something else. I’m giving one extra star to my rating but that’s because of James Norton’s shower scene. It’s more than it deserves.