Review: It’s sad to finally learn that Niels Arden Oplev’s (The original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) Flatliners is neither a sequel nor a blood-related spin-off of Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners (1990) as previously rumored. It turns out to be mundane and redundant remake, which brings back Kiefer Sutherland (not for reprising the same role he played back then but) for a merely prominent cameo.
Flatliners basically is an ‘on-point’ remake which offers nothing new. It goes by the same preposterous premise around near-death experience and exploration to after-life. Revolving around similar groups of med school students with their ‘pseudo-science’ experiment of less-than-5-minutes dying, the remake might look enticing for those who haven’t seen the 1990 flat blockbuster, at least until the film goes all over the place.
Courtney (Ellen Page) a.k.a. the Kiefer Sutherland of the remake is the one who initiates the experiment. She tags along Sophia (Kiersey Clemens) and Jamie (James Norton) to record her brain activity during her temporary death and resuscitates her back to life before her brain is damaged. Before long, two medical prodigies, Marlo (Nina Dobrev) and Ray (Diego Luna, possibly channeling Kevin Bacon’s persona), come along too to save the experiment from going awry. As it turns out, the experiment is a big hit. Courtney returns with increasing brain and muscle works, challenging the others to perform the same procedure. Unbeknownst to them, something from the afterlife is lurking out as they come back.
That synopsis suggests that this Flatliners copies the exact same formula as that Flatliners, despite the initial motivation which suggests a deeper observation to the theme. Yet, as the story progresses, this remake begins to display its deranged, uninspiring direction. It begins with the death-resuscitation cycle that goes exciting at first and gets monotonous by the second attempt onwards. The after-death experience is straight disappointing as it only unravels some non-surreal crime scene of the protagonists’ past sins; while their sins are ‘updated’ but that doesn’t make it any less tedious. As the story enters its mid-point, it’s apparent that this remake isn’t sure where it’s heading to. Starting off as a campy celebration of pseudo-sci-fi, Flatliners delves too deep into some E.R.-esque medical drama before drowning in half-baked horror-fest.
While Schumacher’s Flatliners is a flat-show, it enjoys having fun as if it’s adapting Stephen King’s novella; meanwhile, the new Flatliners simply is taking it too seriously. It’s an unnecessary remake which only works until we realize that Kiefer Sutherland’s uninspiring (non-Nelson) character is even reluctant to participate in a story which blurry mirrors the original.