REVIEW- Flatliners: On remakes, playing God and female representation

Niels Arden Oplev’s reboot of the 1990 thriller ‘Flatliners’ drags the age-old question of ‘what happens after you die’, into the modern era. Heralded by the director as representing a new generation, with a gender flipped cast, and a “Mexican hero” in Diego Luna, the film offers a slick and chic new take on the 90’s classic.

The intended sequel, like the original, follows five thrill seeking medical students, as they attempt to uncover the truth about the after-life, through stopping and restarting their hearts. Lead by Courtney, (Ellen Page) the students embark on their near-death experiences for both answers and personal glory, competing on who can go under the longest. Each character whether motivated by the death of a loved one, or infamy, encounters both the light and dark of their consciousness. The flatliners defy death, but with perilous repercussions. Through dying, the students unlock their full potential, and are given a second chance at life. With this, however, their past mistakes and sins re-emerge taking on a paranormal presence, which they must confront if they are to survive. The film acts as a cautionary tale of the treacherous consequences of playing God, and running from your mistakes.

Oplev’s psychological horror, surpasses the 1990 film largely with its fear factor, with additional jump scares and updated visual effects. In the scenes between life and death, Oplev builds tension with the use of helicam shots and a shaky camera technique, which featured in the original. These visuals, however, seem out of place against the modern architecture, and technologically advanced backdrop the film sets up. Personally, I feel for this reason, the film lacks stylistically and in its overall intent. The director in his attempt to modernise the story, extracted most of what gave the original heart; the stunning Gothic architecture, the questionable outfits and ultimately Julia Roberts. As a lover of the original, the sequel could not compete, particularly as it chose to move away from the religious imagery which made the original so memorable.

‘Flatliners’ 2017 follows on from its predecessor, only in an ambiguous cameo from original cast member Kiefer Sutherland, and the reuse of the admittedly catchy, although cheesy, “It’s a good day to die” tagline, courtesy of Jamie (James Norton.) The film remains relevant however, for its use female characters; Marlo and Sophia, played by Nina Dobrev, and Kiersey Clemons. Their leading roles, as opposed to Julia Robert’s at times passive one in the original, made for new and interesting motives. Ambition, particularly in these women, took on a crueller form in this version, leading to three fully-rounded and relatable female characters, a feat not often achieved in Hollywood. By showcasing the sins and redemption of each flatliner, Oplev succeeds in portraying the humanity of these characters, even if their stories seem a little cliché at times. Diego Luna’s character, however, seemed wasted, as the only student not to flatline, he existed only as a moral compass to the mistakes of the others, with little back story of his own.

Oplev’s remake/sequel starts with an interesting premise and a promising cast, but ultimately flatlines. The film seems to rest on its laurels, with the latter part of the film feeling rushed, ensuring that it did not produce the moral message, or lasting effect of the original. I believe it lacked in stylistic merit, resembling at points a darker more comprehensible Greys Anatomy. It could have benefited from a few more call-backs to the original, however, I could be biased in my nostalgia, for again Julia Roberts hair, clothes and face. This revived horror however does leave viewers with one question, what sins could potentially come back to haunt us?

by Alannah Fleming

Alannah Fleming is a 24yr old politics graduate from Ireland, who is somehow still surviving in Glasgow. She spends most of her time watching YouTube, regretting not being a teen YouTube sensation, and overall just trying her best. She enjoys bad slasher movies, freaking out at Shonda Rhimes’ story-lines, and all the work of David Fincher. Her favourite movies are La La Land, Gone Girl, Grease and Obvious Child, and you can bet she will fight you to death on why Fight Club (despite its embarrassing fan base) is still a good film. Find her on Instagram at lanafleming and giving Twitter another go at AlannahSFleming.

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