Hello to all my fellow Halloween Horror Hellraisers! Welcome to Round One of our October movie series – Original vs. Remake. I decline to use the word reboot as that’s just a fancy name for a remake that sounds only marginally more creative than the word remake (but really isn’t).
Just what is the Original vs. Remake series? I’m glad you asked dear madame or sir. It’s a bit self-explanatory but essentially Lilyn and I will watch movies that have an original and a remake (bet you didn’t see that coming!) and then we will judge which is better from our lofty and scholarly deductions. Or, we might even agree on one. It’s been known to happen. If we disagree we will each argue for our favorite and then poll you guys to see which you like better. If we agree we will each put forth our reasons for liking that particular version and then we’ll still poll you on which version you guys prefer. So look for the new feature every couple of weeks (more often if it’s possible!). We always like a good debate, especially over something so important as our love for the good, the bad and the cheesy. Feel free to put in a request or two in the comments. We may not always be able to fulfill them due to the movies themselves being inaccessible or unavailable or uninteresting to us but we do appreciate your feedback and involvement. That being said – Let the movies begin and may the reels be ever in our favour!
Oh, yeah, folks, this might not need to be stated but: SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!!!
Synopsis: Five medical students experiment on “near death” experiences that involve past tragedies until the dark consequences begin to jeopardize their lives.
I have always loved Flatliners. I loved it as a kid but as an adult it became a bit harder to watch, for obvious reasons. For being a story focused mainly on ‘proving’ the afterlife it manages to sidestep the question of heaven and hell. Although the consequences of their experiments could be seen as a version of ‘hell’, in my opinion it seems more to be a theme of righting wrongs and second chances.
Dr. Rachel Mannus (Julia Roberts) is an earnest young doctor, highly interested in near-death experiences. A series of flashbacks and waking ‘dreams’ after her own NDE tells us why she’s so eager to know what might happen after death. David Labraccio (Kevin Bacon) has recently been kicked out of med school and plays the resident skeptic of the group, mainly there to see what happens (and say a hearty “I told you so” if nothing happens). Dr. Joe Hurley (William Bladwin) is invited along for his mad camcorder *ahem* skills. Randy Steckle (Oliver Platt)…well, I’m not really sure why he’s there except to be the voice of the audience and to be pretty damn funny. Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland) is the brooding brains behind everything. It’s his baby. He’s in charge. Although of the five characters his motivation for being so intent on the experiment is the least clear…until later.
They make an interesting group in Flatliners. They don’t appear to be the sort of friends you’d trust with your lives but Nelson didn’t choose them for their personalities but rather for their skill in fighting death and general doctoring skills. Each actor plays their parts excellently. I’m not overly enamored of Julia Roberts but she is admirable in her role as her story arc has the most potential to fall into the ‘Cheese-Alert’ category. I think a large part of why it’s successful is because of her emotion that she brings to it. she doesn’t overdo the melodrama. Kevin Bacon also plays his part well, not being overly obstinate in his skepticism but still leery of the whole project. William Baldwin plays his sleazy minor role to the hilt. Oliver Platt is Oliver Platt. Funny and nebbishy he brings a bit of much needed humour to the heavy atmosphere.
Kiefer Sutherland brings a dark and brooding quality to it. You can almost feel whatever darkness he’s carrying with him that drives him to want to know what’s ‘after’.
The atmosphere is perfect. From the mid-renovation church they claim for their laboratory to their sudden descents into the ‘dreams’ that follow them after their various trips to the afterlife. If I had to point to the one false note it would be the semi-cheesy flights over landscapes to visualize their flight into the unknown. It’s the typical gorgeous trees with glowing clouds and bright blue sky. Although, on consideration, these scenes might be intentional to make you think it’s going to be your typical Near Death Experience before thrusting you into the unlovely and bitter pasts of these people that you do grow interested in and want to see redeem themselves in at least a small way. Except for Joe. He’s screwed.
I also liked that not all of their ‘sins’ were things of great magnitude and high melodrama. They were very petty, believable things that even ‘good’ people are sometimes prone to. In my opinion there was no need of a remake as the first movie does an excellent job of covering its major themes and wrapping it up satisfactorily but not in such a way as to leave you feeling like your hand was held throughout.
Flatliners has a very ‘Gothic’ feel to it from their experiments taking place in a rundown church to the darker lighting. You can almost feel the darkness.
Now I will turn it over to Lilyn for her take on the remake.
Synopsis: Five medical students, obsessed by what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring experiment: by stopping their hearts for short periods, each triggers a near-death experience – giving them a firsthand account of the afterlife.
“Well, that sucked.” If I could leave it at that, I would. But I know I need to justify it, so let’s begin.
I did watch the original Flatliners. By watch, I mean I paid attention to approximately 15 minutes of it while I was reading a book. The book was better. So, I’m not a “Argh! Why for you remake an awesome movie?!” rabid fan in this case. I didn’t like the remade (or sequel, depending on your view) Flatliners because even viewed on its own terms, it was a ridiculous movie that couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted to be.
Flatliners played like it was going to be a horror movie, but at the end jerked it back like “Oh yeah, no, we’re going to impart a message instead!” And even if it had kept up with the wanna-be horror movie guise, it still would have sucked. Sweet baby Cthulhu, it was like they pulled out the most common horror movie clichés and thought “Oh yes, these are scary. We will use these.”
I knew as soon as the movie opened with a child dying that the chances of it being anything more than mildly interesting had suddenly dropped dramatically. Oh look, dead child used as the dramatic reason for a character to set on some sort of discovery quest. Gee golly whiz, we’ve never seen that done before.
When I was introduced to the rest of the cast and not a single one of them seemed to have any real charisma, I groaned and sunk further down into my seat. Let’s see, you have the one driven to succeed because of a tragic accident in her past, you have the rich white boy, the mysterious foreigner, the sexy chick, and of course our token black character. And let’s not even mention the fact that the struggling student who ‘just can’t do it’ is the black girl. Again, gee golly whiz, who could have expected a line-up like that?! None of the cast really radiates charisma, but of course the one who can actually keep your attention ends up biting the dust.
When Page’s character in Flatliners laid out the rules for recovery, because it was apparently that important, and it was promptly ignored in every single flatline even after that, I wanted to bang my head against the nearest wall. For a bunch of doctors-in-training, this bunch also seemed to lack even a modicum of common sense. Like “Oh, let’s see, we’ve ended up intubating every one that has flatlined, so maybe we should just go straight to intubation? Nahh, that’s too easy.” There’s more, but I’m trying to not go full on rant.
I will give Flatliners credit for trying to do something unexpected with the twist delivered near the end. It was done with all the grace and class of a feces-flinging monkey, but hey, they tried.
Unimaginative, not well cast, cheap horror tricks and weak writing all combine to make Flatliners the type of movie that one can only call a complete waste of money. As in: don’t even waste your money on this when it hits Redbox, folks. It’s that much of a nonentity.