When it comes to its great effects and spooky ambiance, Flatliners has a lot of style, but when it comes to its narrative, the film is significantly lacking in substance. As a fan of the original, alongside being an admirer of Ellen Page, I was really looking forward to this film, though by the end, left the cinema disappointed.
Flatliners begins with Courtney (Page) experiencing a tragic loss. Nine years later, she is a medical student, trying to convince her colleagues to help with an experiment. Later in the film both events are connected, though significantly more depth was required.
As one can guess, Courtney's experiment involves her death, in an attempt to record what happens to the brain after a person flat-lines. Her friends Jamie (James Norton) and Sophia (the beautiful Kiersey Clemons), originally discouraged with her intentions, quickly become involved, as do Ray (Diego Luna) and Marlo (Nina Dobrev) when things don't go according to plan.
When characters travel to the other side, the use of light, sound and motion are used wonderfully to create a fantastic experience, the world beyond often visualised as been very beautiful, the music also adding to the magic of the occasion. After returning from their near-death experiences, characters are miraculously gifted with greater intellect, an idea that is never elaborated upon. Moreover, despite the characters been perceived as studious and intelligent, unlike the characters in The Taking of Deborah Logan, rarely do the leads in Flatliners attempt to use science, or their training, to find a solution to the problems they face, instead behaving much like the stereotypes found in other genre films.
Though the always entertaining Kiefer Sutherland (who deserved a much larger role) has a cameo, don't mistake this as a sequel – this feature is in fact a remake, though it is disappointing we didn't get to see Sutherland's Nelson again after all these years.
Much like in the original, the characters begin to realise the consequences of travelling to the other side. It is during these moments, when the film fully embraces its dark material, that Flatliners is at its best. The music adds to the already well developed spooky atmosphere, and the performances of the cast further heighten the sense of dread. Though occasionally predictable, the feature has its share of unexpected scares, the chase sequences being very gripping.
Like the original, characters find themselves pursued by their 'sins', though the secrets the characters have been harbouring are rarely provided the required depth. Despite flirting briefly with the supernatural, the film pulls on this string only once, which was quite disappointing, the film rarely attempting to stray from the original. Though the original shone a flashlight on bullying, racism, sexism and betrayal, the remake is often centred around the competitiveness of the medical profession, which joins each of the characters together.
As the film progresses, the confrontation between the characters and their 'sins' becomes progressively worse, been far more malicious than what was experienced in the original. Though the film appears to be set for an exciting climax, it is here that the movie appears to run out of steam, and instead rushes towards a happy ending that does not do the film justice.
Flatliners is never boring, capturing the fun lives of the up and coming professionals of tomorrow, and the horror of when things go terribly wrong. The latter however is not given the depth it deserves, and coupled with its weak conclusion, the richness of the films potential goes largely untouched.