Flatliners (1990): Movie Review

flatlinersI must’ve watched the original Flatliners movie when I was 11 or 12 years old when it was shown on Million Dollar Movies. It featured the hottest stars of its day and it was one of the more memorable sci fi films I’ve seen in the 90s. After seeing the trailer for the reboot, it piqued my interest to revisit the original, just to see how much I still remember from the movie. Technically, there were parts that were still clear to me but for the most part, I already forgot. The good news is even now, 27 years after its original release, it wasn’t too shabby.

Synopsis: Medical intern Dr. Nelson Wright (Keiffer Sutherland) convinces his classmates to conduct an experiment to find out what lies beyond death. In order to do this, they must stop his heart for a minute and bring him back so they may find the answers to their questions. As Nelson’s first try succeeds, Dr. Dave Labraccio (Kevin Bacon), Dr. Rachel Manus (Julia Roberts), Dr. Joe Hurley (William Baldwin) and Dr. Randy Steckle (Oliver Platt) decide to explore the unknown by flatlining themselves, only to reap horrifying consequences.

Before I could give an unbiased review of this 90s movie, we have to put everything in context. While this was filmed with an all star cast, Kevin, Keifer, Julia, William and Oliver were all still young actors, much like today’s young talents coming to terms with their own acting skills. The acting tended at times to go overboard but they for me, they can still be considered solid performances even with 2017 standards.

While the technology seemed dated, I liked the fact that director Joel Schumacher was able to establish each character so well that there was no question about how they reacted to the ghosts (not literal) that followed them to their reality. Keifer did really well as an egomaniac consumed by guilt while Kevin was the perfect foil to his character. Even amid the conflict, there was a sense of loyalty among the characters. I loved that even when in crisis, no one really jumped ship and they managed to stick together til the end.

While there were some elements of horror incorporated into the movie, I never really felt scared for Joe, Dave and Rachel — only for Nelson who experienced physical violence from his mental nemesis. I thought it lacked a bit of punch that only Nelson’s life was technically put in danger as a result of the experiment. It would have been nice if Dave didn’t immediately figure out how to get rid of the demons. But then again, there’s a reason he was the smartest of the bunch.

The ominous setting and the renovated museum, I believe, was supposed to stand for something but perhaps it was just an allusion to students playing god. It sort of worked well for the buildup to the climax but other than that, I was mostly amazed by how few settings were involved in this production.

All in all, I think that the original Flatliners was a pretty solid movie but it was limited by the standards of the 90s in terms of storytelling. And because of this, there wasn’t a really great sense of consequence for attempting to toy with life. I think the reboot has a great premise to navigate as audiences are now more open to accepting bolder twists and consequences. It also has the platform to take the original concept to terrors that the original dared not explore. I have great expectations.

Check out the trailer for the original here:

Then check out the reboot’s trailer here: