“Flatliners “ flatlines across the board

Drew Ewery
Staff Writer

This film has presented me with an interesting question when it comes to the nature of story-telling. If a movie has a concept that’s rather unique, but was simply pulled from another film, should it still count as a creative work? For those of you that didn’t know (like me until about three hours before writing this review), Flatliners (2017) is a remake of another film of the same name that was released in 1990. From what I can tell, this movie follows the source material pretty closely, but to be completely honest, I haven’t seen the 90’s classic. Therefore, I’m going to have to review this one strictly on its own merits. If any of you wanted to read a piece that would compare this remake to the original, I’m afraid you’re going to have to look elsewhere. This one is a bit painful you guys. I have seen few movies that have tried so hard to be smart while providing so little intellectual substance.
Flatliners is the tale of a group of five medical students led by Courtney (Ellen Page) who try to crack the secrets of the afterlife by . . . killing each other then resuscitating each other . . . What could possibly go wrong? The group discovers through this psychotic experiment that those who experience death’s grasp and return SOMEHOW gain an incredible boost to their intellectual ability (especial emphasis on the “somehow” because not even the movie tries to explain why this happens). From there, all the members of the group, other than the obvious Jesus metaphor named Ray (Diego Luna), do this process of flatlining to gain a leg up on their academic competition. Unfortunately, this awakens some haunted happenings. All those who flatlined begin to see visions of their greatest regrets as the movie decides it suddenly wants to become a horror film. While the concept was medically silly, I was intrigued enough to take a chance on this movie. Sadly the premise was far from the only silly thing here. A friend I saw the movie with suggested that the haunting entity was all in their heads and that these characters were just hurting themselves in delusion. This actually would’ve been a solid touch to the movie, except the theory is disproven once we see characters in the real world getting dragged about against their will by whatever this specter is. Their mental powers are never explained; the thing haunting them is never explained; the plot just kind of ends after a pathetically uninteresting final third. Overall, I have no hang ups with calling this a failure of a story.
The characters end up being pretty solid surprisingly. Our lead Courtney is interesting enough to have the story follow her. Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) is also quite interesting as a stressed out college student with way too much pressure on herself. Other than them, the previously mentioned Ray is also a highly effective moral center of the experiment even if he should’ve probably objected to these practices a bit more vocally. Other than the main cast doing really stupid things often, they’re actually a solid ensemble. Let’s get into the bad. I’m not sure if we can really consider the villain a character, but I’m going to anyway for the sake of discussion. The strange demon/ghost thing that decides to spook these silly sods is such a disappointing bad guy. What does it want? What can it do? How is it really related to their returns from death’s door? None of these are explained. It takes many different forms in its haunting, but not a single one of them is scary. Are you afraid of young girls drawing pictures? How about a twenty-ish year old woman who looks like she’s been in the rain? If not, I can’t see this thing frightening you. Even at the end, it just kind of goes away. This has to be one of the absolute worst horror monsters I’ve ever seen.
As for effects, they’re alright. Most of the imagery is used during scenes in which the students flatline. Every now and then we’ll get a cool bit of flair that left a mark on me, but mostly it’s the type of effects that Sony (the production company behind this film) probably just recycled from their other works. Also, I really just can’t get over how badly the horror aspects of the movie fail. I may have already gotten into the dreadful villain, but let’s discuss the poor implementation. Let’s talk jump scares. For those unfamiliar with this term, a jump scare is when a movie has something pop up in the screen accompanied by a very loud musical flourish. This is generally regarded as cheating in horror cinema as it only relies on your human survival instincts to make you think you’re scared instead of actually doing something frightening. This movie is chock full of jump scares. In fact, I think that is the only horror in this movie. In a movie like It in which there are many jump scares, it succeeded because it actually had something scary to back up its actions. Whereas that movie had a clown that had 4,000 teeth to frighten you, this movie just puts a normal little girl in their jump scares. In one scene, the movie even tries to make the song “If You’re Happy and You Know It” frightening. This backfired as it caused multiple grown adults in my theater to clap their hands to the music.
This movie isn’t even appropriate. There are plenty of uses of the worst profanities, multiple sex scenes, even some grindingly uncomfortable scenes of medical procedure. I honestly wouldn’t suggest bringing any young ones to a screening. While the horror elements are pathetically non-frightening, the simple profane matter is what ends up making this film unsuitable for younger audiences.
This movie was made by the same production company as The Emoji Movie, and oh dear does it show. The corner cutting, the plot holes, the poor editing, the false pretense of intelligence, they’re all there. I can hardly believe how poorly this movie performed, but at least it wasn’t Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. If you are a fan of the original or even want to watch this one just because, go for it. I’m sure there’s something entertaining in it if you don’t have to nitpick it like I do. However, if you’re looking for the next great thriller, I doubt you’ll find it in Flatliners.
Overall Percentage Score – 40%
Movie buff and binge watcher Drew Ewry is a 2016 graduate of Botkins High School and is currently majoring in english at Wright State University Lake Campus.