Flatliners (2017) Review

Five young medical students, led by Courtney (Ellen Page), attempt to explore life after death using a defibrillation method to stop their hearts for a short period of time. Soon, they experienced a few side effects when the ghosts of their respective past begin to haunt them.

Last year, original Flatliners lead actor Kiefer Sutherland told UK publication site Metro that he “play[s] a professor at the medical university [in the 2017 version]”. Here is his full statement:

“It is never stated but it will probably be very clearly understood that I’m the same character I was in the original Flatliners but that I have changed my name and I’ve done some things to move on from the experiments that we were doing in the original film.”

Judging by Sutherland’s statement above, it looks as if the new Flatliners is intended as a sequel. But upon watching the movie, it turns out to be a reboot after all with Sutherland playing a different character where he is credited as Dr Barry Wolfson. Not as Nelson, just like in the original movie. Why the studio (Sony) ends up rebooting Flatliners, instead of continuing the story is beyond me. For the record, the original 1990 movie wasn’t exactly a great piece of cinema. But it sure earned a cult-classic status back then, thanks to its high-concept trippy premise and a lively young cast led by Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon and Julia Roberts. That movie also turned out to be a box-office hit, which was largely attributed to the highly-publicised romance between Sutherland and Roberts.

Frankly, I don’t see the reason why Flatliners needs to be retold for today’s generation. In fact, I would place this under the category of a reboot nobody asks for. Despite enlisting original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo helmer Niels Arden Oplev, his direction is mostly drab. At least Joel Schumacher back then displayed a distinctly MTV style to the otherwise preposterous 1990 original. The reboot also features a screenplay by Ben Ripley, who made quite an impression with the Groundhog Day-like sci-fi thriller in Source Code (2011).

Unfortunately, he doesn’t add much to the familiar themes of guilt, punishment and forgiveness that have already explored in the 1990 original. The reboot is basically more of the same, with the exception of minor tweaks here and there. If anything, the biggest differences here are the diverse cast that displayed gender equality (three female stars, instead of one Julia Roberts) and a gender switch that sees Ellen Page playing the Kiefer Sutherland role, minus the different name of the character. As a horror movie, the Flatliners reboot is as cliché it gets, complete with an over-reliance of typical jump scares that may please most casual viewers.

As for the cast, Ellen Page delivers an above-average performance as the guilt-ridden Courtney. Other cast members including Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton and Kiersey Clemons are all equally competent in portraying their respective roles.

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