I am not going to tell you that the original Flatliners was a classic horror movie. It was a fun Joel Schumacher film, utilising a fun premise, decent enough script by Peter Filardi, and a cast of hot young stars of the time. I just never thought it as great as some others. I did like it though.
This remake starts with the same basic idea (medical students get themselves involved in experiments that lead to them dying for some time, which subsequently leads to them bringing something back over from the other side). But we get Niels Arden Oplev directing, and a script by Ben Ripley.
Ellen Page is Courtney, the first medical student to come up with the plan to flatline. She actually wants to do so because she thinks reading the data from the experience, as she does it while her brain activity is recorded, could help deal with certain medical situations. She's joined by Jamie (James Norton), Marlo (Nina Dobrev), and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons). And eventually, reluctantly, Ray (Diego Luna) gets caught up in the whole mess. Things start getting weird, and death isn't necessarily going to let anyone go without a fight.
When it comes to the actual logic of the way events pan out, Flatliners does a surprisingly good job. It starts off as being about more than people just trying to get their kicks, but eventually shows competition between the leads and the element of thrill-seeking involved. Ripley has done a decent enough job of updating a premise that didn't feel too badly dated to begin with, bringing in an interesting element that removes it slightly from the original (although I won't detail that - no spoilers here). It's just a shame that the new element also ends up proving the undoing of the film during the third act. Things feel a bit tamer than they could have been, even compared to the original film, which wasn't exactly pushing the boundaries of the horror genre.
Oplev directs competently enough, but only just. The scares are, for the most part, the easiest options, the visuals are quite drab and lacking any sense of foreboding or decent atmosphere, and even the grand finale feels more like a whimper than a bang.
Then we have the cast. I like most of the people involved. Page, Dobrev, and Luna are all good enough for me to watch. I can't recall what else I have seen Norton and Clemons in, if anything, but they seemed just fine in their roles. They aren't, however, the hot stars of today. That doesn't make them bad actors, it just removes some of the spark that this premise had when it was first put in front of viewers. I'd imagine that some of you reading this will have no idea who half of these people are, yet we all STILL know Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland (who cameos here), Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin (okay, you don't remember him individually but you know there's a Baldwin clan), and maybe even the great Oliver Platt.
All of these elements add up to make something that's just a bit . . . disappointing. The tame script, the unspectacular and drab visual style, the star cast that doesn't feel exactly stellar. It makes a good attempt to rework the original material but there are too many mis-steps for it to become something decent (even the score by Nathan Barr is just average, at best).
UK folks can buy Flatliners here.
If in America you can buy it here.