Cross The Line. Boredom Will Follow You Back.
Okay, so I admit it. I never saw Flatliners (1990). Judging by the reaction of my friends and family when I tell them this, I understand this to be some form of warcrime on par with the execution of unarmed prisoners of war, or the fact Despicable Me launched a Minions franchise. In fact, I’m going to go one step further and admit that I’m not even that familiar with Flatliners as a story.
In some way, this is actually a blessing in disguise. It meant that as I took my seat in the cinema this evening, I was sitting down with an open, unbiased mind. I would watch Flatliners (2017) as it should be seen – as a unique and standalone reboot of the Joel Schumacher favourite.
I wish I hadn’t bothered.
Alright, So What Happens?
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, Flatliners opens with Courtney (Ellen Page), a young woman out for a drive with her younger sister when things go badly wrong. Distracted by her phone, Courtney fails to spot a tractor blocking the upcoming bridge, and the car is soon flipped into the river. This was clearly not something that ends well.
Fast forward to the modern day, and Courtney is a medical student training on the job at a well established hospital. She seems fascinated with what may lie beyond the grave, and soon enlists the aid of several of her fellow medical students, who we are introduced to individually as they go about their usual routine. First we have Marlo (Nina Dobrev), a try-hard who stammers when things get stressful, particularly when competitive Ray (Diego Luna) starts to put the pressure on. Next up is rich party-boy Jamie (James Norton) and, finally, we have Sophia (Kiersey Clemons), who we meet crying in the library as she tries, and fails, to memorise nerve endings prior to an upcoming exam.
Courtney leads Sophia and Jamie down to an unused part of the hospital to help her try out an experiment to determine what happens at the point of death. Utilising an MRI scanner and a whole load of medical equipment, Courtney manages to convince Jamie to stop her heart long enough for her to see what may lie beyond, with strict instructions to revive her after a minute.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know all the above already. You’ll probably also be aware that things don’t go all that smoothly when Jamie and Sophia try to revive Courtney, and in the panic, Sophia calls Ray down to help – followed quickly by Marlo. Eventually, they succeed to revive Courtney, and find that she isn’t quite the same as she was before.
If anything, she has been improved. The group observe that she appears able to access her entire life’s memories in one go, able to remember long forgotten recipes and musical skills. Her memory even goes so far as to ‘wow’ their tutor, Dr Barry Wolfson (played by Kiefer Sutherland, in a cameo that probably had more to do with the marketing department than Kiefer’s skill as a performer). Seeing her success, Jamie insists that he be next to undergo the ‘flatlining’ procedure.
One by one, each of the main cast – with the exception of Ray – volunteer to be put to sleep for a short amount of time. Afterwards, they each feel a new lease of life – improving themselves and living for the now. But, as it is eventually revealed, it does not come without a cost. Each character begins to see visions of things from their past. Things that seem to eat away at their conscience. The question is, is it too late to make amends for their sins, or will they be get over their perceived guilt?
I know it might look good on paper, but Flatliners suffers one major issue. I could not give a toss about these characters. I understand that the characters are medical students, and therefore should be relatively young, but something about the cast just makes me want to puke. All of them are so wealthy, so beautiful and so talented, it just stinks of American soap opera. The fact that Courtney and Marlo live in enormous properties on their own and yet remain students? Something isn’t right there. Jamie lives on a yacht for God’s sake.
What’s more, the flatlining procedure only succeeds in making the characters even more unlikable and obnoxious. I feel like the movie wants me to look on in wonder, wishing I could live like this, but I had the reverse feeling. I felt like I was at a party, with someone pointing to a rich dick and telling me how brilliant they are. I get it.
When things start to go topsy turvy, the horror really tries to get started. But it never quite gets there. Loud noises and people appearing does nothing but startle the audience, before the film continues for a bit, before BAM – a girl in a car. BAM – a disturbing vision of an ex-girlfriend hanging around. You get the picture.
By the end, I was so bored, I just wanted to see each character murdered for their crimes, but the film didn’t even deliver there either. Oh, isn’t it nice to have a happy ending for these lovely, happy, perfect people? I hate them all.
Still, I did enjoy the music, and for what it’s worth, Flatliners holds a 15 certificate. If you are 15 and reading this, Flatliners won’t win any awards, but it will make an excellent teenage date movie. A couple of jump scares to keep you awake, and plenty of dull character scenes to ignore while you try and work out where your hand should be.
Yours, A P Tyler