Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Beau Mirchoff, Kiefer Sutherland, Madison Brydges, Jacob Soley, Anna Arden, Miguel Anthony, Jenny Raven,
Written by: Ben Ripley, based on a story by Peter Filardi
Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and terror, sexual content, language, thematic material, and some drug references
Running Time: 110
Date: 09/29/2017

Flatliners (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Death Squish

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This remake of a 1990 horror hit starts with the same good idea, and goes down the same superficial, empty-headed path, although, unlike the original, this one is sadly unaware of its own shallowness.

In Flatliners, medical student Courtney (Ellen Page) is doing her internship, but haunted by the car crash that killed her younger sister years earlier. She becomes fascinated by patients that die and return to life, describing what they felt and saw. She decides to kill herself, just for one minute, and asks fellow students Jamie (James Norton) and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) to help. Ray (Diego Luna) and Marlo (Nina Dobrev) join in.

The experiment works, and Courtney feels energized and sharp, as if her brain was "rewired." Jamie decides to go through with it as well, followed by Marlo and Sophia. But in addition to their new lease on life, they begin to see ghosts of their pasts, at first in visions, and then in real life. After a fatal accident, the remainder of the group decides to see if apologizing for their mistakes will put the ghosts to rest.

The original movie (which I saw in 1990 but have not reviewed) played up its silliness with bold colors and overwrought sets, and the best this one can manage is having the women characters wear heels during their hospital shifts. The original also benefitted from the newly minted stardom of Julia Roberts, whose Pretty Woman had recently set the box office afire. This Flatliners does feature some likable actors, but hardly the "A" list the original film boasted. (Kiefer Sutherland appears here as an older doctor, 27 years after his role in the original.)

Instead, it's too bad this remake couldn't have expanded upon the original idea, exploring the concept of life after death. Instead, it goes down the same old "haunted by ghosts of our pasts" route (it's very convenient how many of these characters have deaths in their pasts) and uses stale old horror movie chestnuts to "scare" us.

Of course, the movie does try to shove an "apologizing/forgiving" message down our throats, but this means little when the characters are only doing it to save their own skins. At the helm, director Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Dead Man Down) keeps things polished and professional, but fails to make his movie worth seeing.

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