By Amy Rudolph
As someone who hates scary movies, I was glad to see “Flatliners” was rated as a thriller and not a horror movie. Apparently that line was very blurred by those in charge.
“Flatliners” opens to a group of stressed out medical students trying their best in the dog-eat-dog world of medicine. These characters are at first only bound to each other by their jobs but soon become more than just coworkers when Courtney (Ellen Page) asks that they stop her heart so she can see the afterlife. This experiment is a result of her guilt.
After the initial positive experiences, more of her friends take part in this “exercise.” Marlo (Nina Dobrev) claims that they could bottle “flatlining” and sell it as a party drug.
These so-called professionals learn the hard way that everything has consequences, but the premise asks way too much of the audience. I often found myself asking why they were doing almost all of their actions. The characters are so poorly constructed that they are not really full-fledged people but merely archetypes. You have the average-looking smart girl who appears to have no problems but is racked by guilt, the poor and crazy token person of color is trying to impress her overbearing parents, the hot trust fund brat who can’t think about anything other than sex and partying, the hot girl who says literally “I don’t know what you see in me” as if it’s not obvious, and the unconventionally attractive foreign guy who is the only voice of reason.
A lot of this film came off as wholly unnecessary. The jump scares add little to the plot and are merely there to keep the audience on their toes. If you are like me and my friend, you can close your eyes for half the film and still get the same experience. There is an abundance of sex scenes that are pointless. The film quickly diverged into a who-is-sleeping-with-who dramedy which is completely aside from whatever point it was trying to make.
In an attempt to not just be a pure thriller with no real substance, which it is, the film tries to introduce deeper themes and imagery. One example is the recurring religious theme that is thrown around and never fully realized as a concept. At one point, Jamie (James Norton) calls himself “Jesus” and says after his experience that he will heal everyone, but this character point is never completely realized.
The one good thing I will say is that the sets are well established and help the audience see into the mind of the characters as they flatline. The CGI and camera tricks help to intensify the situation and build suspense. The original “Flatliners” cannot compare to this new adaptation in this respect. “Flatliners” (2017) can stand on its own and need not be compared to the original.
The film shares elements from Vore Gerbinski’s “The Ring” as well as the “Final Destination” series and adds a new and updated flair to them without being solely about the shock value. Had the film stuck more to the thrilling aspect and not the horror, I would have probably enjoyed it more.