- Nikki Baughan
- 29 September 2017
A strong cast can't save this remake from death by misadventure
Despite the appearance of original star Kiefer Sutherland, in a thankless cameo as a grizzled lecturer, this remake of Joel Schumacher's 1990 brat pack horror proves to be a straightforward (and entirely unnecessary) rehash which proves utterly dead on arrival.
It sees a group of medical students embarking on a series of underground experiments – literally, as they take place in a conveniently-deserted-yet spotlessly-clean-and-well-stocked basement hospital – in which they kill themselves, experience the afterlife and are then brought back from the dead. When they begin to be haunted by visions they had during their flatlines, however, they soon realise there are some serious consequences to playing God.
While these protagonists share some similarities with the characters of the original, they are a decidedly unlikeable bunch. Self-serving and competitive, their desire to push the limits of human experience comes not from scientific ambitions but selfish navel gazing. Some are seeking to be absolved from past guilt, like ringleader Courtney (Ellen Page), who carries with her debilitating guilt over the death of her sister, others, like playboy Jamie (James Norton) are simply looking for fame and success.
And what they find when they go under is less to do with expanding human consciousness, and more a deep dive into their past misdemeanours. Of course, this focus on the individual was also true in the original, but this update's flippant screenplay and pulsing VFX seem to underscore the juvenile stupidity of these 20-somethings' endeavours. Tonally, there's no reverence to the life-and-death issues at play here; from the opening sequence onwards, the film has the look and feel of a strobing music video.
It doesn't help that director Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) and screenwriter Ben Ripley seem determined to hit every note in the modern horror playbook; creepy kids, shower curtains and distorted radios providing a litany of obvious jump scares. The strong, diverse cast members try their best, but are hampered at every turn by genre cliche, lumbering dialogue ('I need you to come back… to me,' breathes Diego Luna as he plunges a needle deep into Nina Dobrev's cleavage) and ridiculous set-pieces; a drunken hailstorm fight, several shoehorned-in sex scenes.
Schumacher's Flatliners could only ever be described as an enjoyable romp but, in comparison to this glossy, soulless affair it's elevated to cinematic masterpiece. If only it had come with the instruction 'Do Not Resuscitate'.