When the horrible reviews for the new “Flatliners” film came out, the natural assumption was that the film was gloriously bad, full of funny deaths and ridiculous jump scares. What a disappointment to find out that “Flatliners” isn’t just not fun, it’s downright boring.
Five medical students, led by Courtney (Ellen Page), engage in a dangerous game of inciting near-death experiences by stopping their hearts. While “dead”, they get a glimpse of the afterlife and a world outside our own. What Ray (Diego Luna), Marlo (Nina Dobrev), Jamie (James Norton), Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) and Tessa (Madison Brydges) don’t realize however, is that they all suffer from waking nightmares from their past, their sins coming back to haunt them in the present after they go under.
A remake of a 1990 film of the same name, “Flatliners” can’t decide what exactly it is. Is it a cheap horror film made for exploitative death scenarios and random sex scenes? Is it a “smart” thriller that plays with sci-fi tropes and presents interesting ideas about consciousness and the afterlife? The film toes the line between both and comes out a mess, not clever enough to present intriguing ideas nor creative enough to give us inventive kills and scares.
With flat characters and an uneven plot, the film is instantly forgettable and a shame considering the concept is somewhat interesting.
Consider the following approach:
– Five medical students, whose background of deception is hinted at before they meet, accidentally stumble upon a way to venture into the afterlife. Blind with power, they rush headfirst into this new world, seeing a world of possibility and potential, never taking a moment to recognize the danger lurking for each of them. The dead start to grow envious of their ability to leap between worlds and kill them one by one in creative ways in the afterlife. As they realize what is happening, Courtney, the protagonist, must go in one more time and try to fix what’s been broken, but it is too late, her dead sister coming to get her, and they are all captured, punishment for their hubris.
That’s the classic, horror approach to the narrative. You could also have the smart, interesting approach below:
– When five students discover they can flip back and forth between the afterlife and reality, they begin a quest to figure out life’s mysteries, digging deeper and deeper into the dead world, looking for some answers. When Courtney is finally trapped by some force in the dead world, it’s up to her friends to try and bring her back to life. Their love and commitment through the journey is tested as they realize the folly of their way. The strange force in the dead world speaks to Courtney, terrifying her with its knowledge. She is saved before he can claim her and they all learn not to mess with the eternal forces of the world.
Instead, the movie we have is a boring, mind-numbing mess, put together without ingenuity or grace, an empty, emotionless slog.