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Flatliners Resuscitates a Dead Original

When I was younger, Nightmare on Elm Street scared the hell out of me. As an adult human I went back and re-watched it and wondered, “Why did I like this?” and I only had one answer: Robert Englund. Personally, I loved the remake because it focused on Krueger’s. Much like Friday the 13th and how it framed Jason as being more a methodical maniac with a series of tunnels he used to pop up and slaughter. I loved it. It was a clever reimagining of a movie that is forever etched into my skin… literally. Then, there was Rob Zombie’s Halloween and I must wonder, what did Michael Myers ever do to deserve… that?

There is a stigma about remakes. The fans of movies – especially cult classics – really hate it when something they view as perfect is redone. In some cases, this distrust is warranted but, in others, such as Flatliners, the hater-aid is a bit curdled. Where remakes fail is the lack of participation of the people who originally worked on the project (producers don’t count). I mentioned Friday the 13th, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street (pssst… yet another remake is in development) for this reason. While two of the three remakes were good offerings, they became convoluted and lost in their own world. This may be because they tried too hard to differentiate themselves, tried too hard to be like the original, or just couldn’t find the right lane (I mean you, Zombie).

Flatliners was not only written by the guy who wrote the original, but Mr. Sutherland used his off time from Designated Survivor to make an appearance. Plus, we got Ellen Page, whom we’ve not seen much of (unless you count that time she made Ted Cruz her bitch) and she proves, once again, how great of an actress she is. Diego Lugo (Rogue One, MILK), Nina Doprev (The Vampire Diaries), James Norton (Happy Valley), and Kiersey Clemons (Flashpoint, The Justice League) round out the talent. They all deliver powerful performances that, more than once, are jarring and startling.

 

The premise is simple: What happens when you die? This question has been asked for millions of years and everyone has their own theory. Flatliners attempts to answer this question with a dangerous, yet scientific, experiment. Five medical students get roped into the single-minded plan of Courtney (Ellen Page) who wants to reunite with the sister she accidentally killed when she was a teenager. They are attached to an imaging machine while their brain waves are recorded as their hearts are stopped. The result is a damaging journey through their own personal hells as each bring something back with them.

Flatliners has a dark and gritty independent feel due to the tone the overall aesthetic sets. Even in a bright hospital the mood is still somehow subdued thanks to the great lighting choices. This is before we even get to see “the other side”. When we do, it varies per character, depending on their sins; or greatest guilt. Flatliners starts off a little slow and just a bit predictable but once it starts to hit its stride, around the tail end of the first act, it doesn’t stop hitting it until the final credits roll. I credit this more to the powerful acting of the young, but seasoned, cast, than the script itself. After all, if you saw the original, there isn’t much differentiation from that.

 

A lot of fans of psychological thrillers don’t remember the original Flatliners very well. It exists as a great movie, with a ton of talent just starting out; or hitting their stride as soon-to-be megastars, but it doesn’t top the upper echelon status of cult classic. This remake was done very well and could easily breathe new life into the original. It’s gripping, sometimes terrifying, and always makes us wonder if we really want answers.

If you’re not too much of a hater of remakes, and you want to see one done right, then Flatliners should be on your list. If you liked IT (and, if you didn’t, you must have liked Zombie’s “Halloween”), then you’ll get something out of this.

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