Continuing the trend of endless remakes nobody asked for, director Niels Arden Oplev takes a crack at resurrecting a crappy 27-year-old Kiefer Sutherland vehicle. At least it’s not a beloved film getting the cheap makeover this time. One would think that, at the very least, this new version of Flatliners can’t be any worse than the original. One would be wrong.
Courtney (Ellen Page) is a medical student at The Top-Rated Medical School That Does Not Admit Ugly People. Obsessed with the after-life after carelessly causing her sister’s death nine years earlier, she comes up with the plan of stopping her heart for a couple minutes to force a near-death experience. She has surprisingly little difficulty recruiting fellow students to this dangerous and ethically indefensible project.
The original Flatliners scoffed at the idea of medical plausibility, but it’s a scholarly textbook compared with the current version. We are supposed to believe that brain activity creates actual electric sparks, that an endotracheal tube is a mystic talisman that doesn’t need to be connected to oxygen, and that a shockingly incompetent group of medical professionals could pull off multiple successful resuscitations. Even this pales in comparison to the ludicrous notion that a hospital would build an entire functioning unit, complete with MRI scanner, just for emergencies and leave it otherwise unused. But still clean it regularly, keep it fully stocked, and not wonder who was using the supplies and making messes night after night. I could go on, but suffice it to say that everything medically-related in this film is farcical BS.
After enduring half a movie’s worth of medical slapstick, horrible acting, and unsuccessful attempts to create backstories and get us to care about the students, we finally get to see sins of the past start to haunt the group. Unfortunately, even Count Floyd would hesitate to try to pass it off as scary. It’s a tedious series of unending horror clichés and jump scares that don’t even make you jump. Dull and boring are the words that come to mind. As if that weren’t bad enough, a saccharine life lesson is shoe-horned in at the end.
Special dishonorable mention goes to the cheap gimmick of casting Kiefer Sutherland as the students’ curmudgeonly mentor. It’s a blatant tease. Is he playing the same character as in the original? Will he come to the aid of the students and offer important insight? Spoiler Alert: No. He doesn’t do anything significant. Just an easy payday for Mr. Sutherland.
Overall, it’s a dull film that does nothing to explore what could have been a fascinating idea. It’s been quite a while since the end of a movie made me think “Is that it?” and “Boy, I’m glad that’s over” at the same time. Pro tip: Near-death experiences apparently make you unbelievably horny.
Overall rating: 2/10