Hot Take: I’m sure the 15-year-old me thought a reboot of Flatliners was a great idea. However, the much older me was a little less enthralled.
The original Flatliners was the perfect cable flick. Back when premium cable channels had considerably less original content, certain movies received more repeat play. Flatliners in the ’90s was one of those films. There’s a good chance I watched it 30-plus times. It wasn’t that good. It was just on a lot and easy to re-watch. It didn’t ask much of your brain, had some memorable scenes and a halfway decent cast. Plus, there wasn’t anything else on. Fast forward to 2017 (which probably takes a lot longer to fast forward once you hit January 2017 because, let’s face it, this year feels like a damn eternity!) and some how, some way, someone thought it was a good idea to reboot this middling success from 1990. For perspective, the original Flatliners grossed slightly less than Bird on a Wire and slightly more than Problem Child. Granted, Problem Child spawned a sequel or two but did the 18th highest grossing movie of 1990 really need a reboot?
That being said, it happened and like the 1990 film, the latest take on Flatliners features an intriguing cast including Ellen Page (age 30), Diego Luna (age 37), James Norton (age 32), Nina Dobrev (age 28) and Kiersey Clemons (age 23). Clemons is basically the only age appropriate actor of the quintet who, like the original, portray med school students who get the bright idea that stopping your heart is a worthwhile experiment. The 1990 cast was much younger and only Kevin Bacon was over 30 when the film was made. It’s an unusual decision to go with a much older cast although the 5 performers do their best to get through the cheesy script and jump scare-reliant frights. While the most accomplished, Page is the least impressive of the cast members as the med student who disguises her desire to flatline as a science experiment even though it has some convoluted connection to her sister who died in a car crash while Page’s character was texting and driving. All 5 are competitive to a fault with Luna as Ray being the most accomplished and physician-like. The others including Page fee like cartoon versions of med students and the whole thing is actually silly in parts.
Oddly enough, as weak as this redux is, it has enough entertainment to keep it interesting. It’s not good but it relies more heavily on horror than the original and is just creepy enough to be a minor freak out. Like the original, it tries to make killing yourself seem cool, sexy and addictive. While the original felt as if everyone involved knew they weren’t shooting for high art and were instead making something that would become a guilty pleasure, the reboot felt much more serious and unintentionally cheesy. Didn’t everyone know they were re-making a schlocky ’90s flick? Guess not.
Based on box office results, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to see this one in theaters if you haven’t already. Once it rolls on to Netflix or a gets into rotation on a premium cable channel, its easy-on-the-eyes cast and vapid but entertaining story will make for great viewing at 2am when you can’t sleep. At any other point, though, Flatliners might be worth skipping.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- More Roles for Nina Dobrev, Please
Now that The Vampire Diaries has written its final chapter, there’s no reason to continue to hope that Dobrev comes back to television. Hopefully, there are more roles for her in Hollywood and while she doesn’t blow the doors off here, she’s still on my list of up-and-coming performers under 30.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- A Missed Opportunity With Kiefer Sutherland
Originally, it was rumored that Sutherland would reprise his role as Dr. Nelson Wright from the original. Even though Sutherland has spread the rumor that he is the character from the original film but he changed his name and moved on from the “flatlining” experiments, there’s absolutely nothing to connect his character to the original. Unless Page’s character got the idea of “flatlining” through osmosis, it’s an homage to cast Sutherland in the reboot and nothing more.
- Here’s A Shock: Critics Hated It!
While audiences haven’t completely killed the reboot (it received a B- CinemaScore), only 4% of all critics rated it fresh via Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer. Ouch!