Growing up, I was introduced to plenty of different kinds of horror movies and other genres as well. My parents hated horror, but my mom sure loved Julia Roberts. I was more familiar with her romantic comedies than anything else, but it made me excited as a kid to learn she did a horror film. Joel Schumacher’s 1990 original Flatliners was a staple in my house as it starred one of my mom’s favorite actresses and it was legitimately a good movie. An ensemble cast that included Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon, it was an interesting take on how the past can come back to haunt us once you play with God. The thriller was a huge hit, but not be too familiar for the younger generation as isn’t as recognized as something like Freddy or Jason movie. It doesn’t show up in the horror movie line ups come October so it was quite the surprise for me when I heard a remake was in the works.
The initial reaction to the FLATLINERS remake trailer was met with a not so great reaction. The grim atmosphere of the original was replaced by vibrant colors and CGI that distracted from the true nature of the story. When the movie finally got released, the result stayed close to what was marketed but nowhere nearly as bad as it looked. I admit I was one of the pretentious skeptics who scoffed at the trailer, but I’ve definitely seen way worse remakes.
Ellen Page leads the cast here as Courtney, a medical student who is still guilt ridden over her younger sister’s death from a car accident in which Courtney was driving. It’s this guilt that drives her to convince other students to participate in making her heart stop and experience what might be lying in the afterlife. This is where some of the most interesting updates takes place as Courtney finds herself floating above the building, giving a sensationalizing experience that could be compared to being drugged up. She develops a new talent of absorbing knowledge and regaining skills she hasn’t practiced in years. The others become seduced into dying as well and each has their own similar experiences. Just like in the original, they become haunted by something in the past they must own up to.
This remake relies heavily on flashy cinematography and jump scares to entertain audiences, but I have to admit, it works for the most part. There’s a couple great set ups, but this makes the updated FLATLINERS only a one-time watch. It makes for something fun to watch if you catch it on cable or borrow a DVD, but the scares are forgotten as soon as the credits roll. Page definitely upsells the package as she manages to elevate what could have been a rather vanilla character into someone we can actually care about. We get her motivation and don’t necessarily think she’s being stupid like we typically do in movies like these. Page, however, remains underrated as she was ignored during awards season for what I think was her best role in a little thriller some of you might know called Hard Candy.
What really sells the home video release is the sound mix. The opening credits roll with people telling us their after-life experiences and the voices float around the speakers, literally drowning us in stories about death and white lights. Some of the scare build ups are heightened by creaks heard from rear speakers, adding some tension to the film. While FLATLINERS may not be the next level remake nobody asked for, it doesn’t deserve to put in the same category as such disasters like the Nightmare on Elm Street remake.