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Flatliners: An Embarrassing Remake of a Mediocre Original That Didn't Ask to Be Revived

Updated on October 30, 2017
Rami Nawfal profile image

Rami has a BA in psychology from the American University of Beirut and an MS in addiction counseling from Grand Canyon University.

Through the eyes of a money-junkie Hollywood producer, I would understand the reasoning behind remaking a popular film. But in this film’s case I was perplexed as to why the original 1990 “Flatliners” starring Julia Roberts was even resuscitated as it was an utterly forgettable piece of work. I’m not upset because the remake was unnecessary, the real gloom stems from its refusal to take the original’s barely explored premise in a new direction. Not only does the “Flatliners” remake waste the talents of its cast and do nothing with its premise, it spirals into an achingly generic horror film destined for the toilet bowl.

Courtney (Ellen Page) develops an obsession for the afterlife following a car accident that kills her younger sister. Years later as a medical residency student, Courtney and four of her colleagues undertake a risky experiment to gain knowledge of what lies on the other side; an insane study that would involve a temporary halt of their heart functions for minutes on end. As the students continue to put themselves in peril, they eventually find themselves haunted by apparitions related to their sins and past misgivings.

This movie is a steaming hot mess, it hasn’t a clue as to what sort of film it wants to be. “Flatliners” fails miserably as a film about the notions of life and death, is vigorously disastrous as a horror flick, and arrantly clumsy in conveying its message about seeking forgiveness. As much as the flatlining experiments generated tension, they never gave any actual insight into the gray matter’s post-mortem activities. Moreover, a film with a premise of such complexity begs for some deliberation on an ecclesiastical or theoretical level following near death experiences. Instead, “Flatliners” opts to dillydally and waste screentime with aimless sequences of euphoria and debauchery as every jaunt into the afterlife apparently comes with a hot injection of adrenaline, libido, and a hint of NZT, the fictional brain-enhancing drug from “Limitless”.

Following this film’s ferocious skimping on anything of worth with regards to its premise over an hour into its runtime, “Flatliners” subsequently devolves into one of the most brazenly bland and excruciatingly boring excuses for a horror movie I have seen in years. Devoid of even a microscopic tinge of tension, the carelessly staged jump-scares are half-baked and can be seen coming from a mile away. Lacking any subtlety or intrigue, the spectral symbols of these characters’ guilt and misgivings are about as obvious as an inebriated nudist streaking through a crowd of religious conservatives. Given that the characters don’t even begin to address the conflict until a little over two thirds of the film, the unfortunate moviegoers are subjected to an entire act of dull, generic, unimaginative horror that can’t be rectified even via a stoner party thrown by Bob Marley himself. When that’s over with, the final act of “Flatliners” ever so nonchalantly rushes itself as it clumsily delivers a perfunctory message about attaining forgiveness before your sins destroy you; a message lost in translation as the film overlooked whatever questions it may have raised.

There was one surprisingly redeeming factor; the performances were actually pretty serviceable as the cast did everything they can with the lame material they were given. As much as the characters were unfathomably dumb and full of irrationalities and contradictions, they were substantially more likable than they had any right to be. All the more reason to be frustrated with the placement of fine actors wasting their talents in subpar films that are far beneath their caliber.

In the end, I believe “Flatliners” is a pathetic and quite frankly, embarrassing attempt at a cash grab. It is a stunningly poor remake of a mediocre film that didn’t warrant or need a revival from the dead. This film, akin to a petulant child, obstinately refuses to seize the golden opportunity to go the distance with its premise. Instead it opts to attempt crowd gratification with superficial humor and inert scares that a 3-year-old would probably scoff at. If I were you I wouldn’t waste my time with this one, it’s not even worth a watch on Netflix.

My score: 3/10

© 2017 Rami Nawfal

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