Review: 'Flatliners' Starring Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, & Kiersey Clemons

Hey, cool! A remake that didn’t totally suck! Flatliners is the latest film to be run through Hollywood’s current reboot machine, and for the most part, this update kinda works. 2017’s Flatliners follows the same basic plot as the 1990 original: five young med students temporarily kill themselves and bring each other back to life in an attempt to discover what happens after death. That’s undeniably an interesting premise, and the 90’s one didn’t make great use of it, making it the ideal candidate for a remake. These are the kinds of movies we should reboot. Take a cool but underutilized plot and crank it up to 11 for our modern tastes. Be Mad Max Fury Road as opposed to the Robocop remake. That’s not to say that this new Flatliners is anything incredible, but it is better than the original. Keep in mind though that the first one was directed by Joel Schumacher (who made the still-hated George Clooney Batman movie). So, while “better” isn’t an especially high bar to pass here, the new film did pass it nonetheless.

Ellen Page (who is consistently fantastic in every movie she’s in) stars as Courtney, the young doctor who initiates the experiment with the help of her five friends (one of whom is Diego Luna!) After her experience, Courtney springs back to life reborn. She’s smarter, faster, more efficient. Everything she ever learned comes flooding back to her, as if parts of her mind had been unlocked. Naturally, her friends insist they flatline too, and things go south from there.

I loved the lab sequences. They actually put thought into the fake movie science the characters are using, which I really appreciated. The first film is so goofy and nonsensical about its logic, but this one takes it more seriously for a much better effect. I also loved how diverse the group of doctors were, another huge step up from the almost-entirely-white-dudes-in-lab-coats original. It’s visually interesting. The score has some really great moments. It had several clever little winks at the 90’s one scattered throughout its runtime. It was just a fun movie, particularly in the first half.

What disappointed me was the way the film strays away from its premise. I was hoping this would be one of the original film’s problems that would be corrected in the remake, but it remains just as riddled with holes almost three decades later. At the start of the movie, Courtney explains the idea of experimenting to find out about life after death, but the plot sort of abandons that core concept pretty quickly. Instead of being haunted by the experience of what they saw in the afterlife, the flatliners are all overcome with visual manifestations of their guilt. They each come back to life only to be hunted down by the sins of their past. While that’s an interesting idea, it’s not the one explained to us at the start of the movie.

Furthering my frustrations was the execution of these haunting scenes. All of the “horror” moments in the film fell flat. Literally the only “spooky” part that worked for me was the very last vision Ellen Page’s character has of her past, and that’s really due in large part to her performance in that scene. I preferred the moments when it was a scifi thriller, and not a jump-scare morality tale.

Additionally, almost all of the memories they feel guilty about involve death. There is so much accidental murder in these characters’ backstories, it’s ridiculous. I personally have four friends, and I don’t believe any of us are responsible for a death. According to the world of Flatliners, a couple of us definitely killed a guy. That’s rather weird. Luckily, the misguided scare sequences total only about 20 minutes of the 110 minute runtime. So at least there’s that.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Flatliners. It has a lot of problems, but it also has a lot of good elements in it too. For what it’s worth, it’s an improvement over the original. This could have been a lot worse.

Rating: 3 out of 5