Oct-2-2017

Reel Snippet – Flatliners (2017)

Summary: Courtney Holmes (Ellen Page), a medical student with a troubling past , endeavors to try a daring medical experiment — stop her own heart, record her brain for a few minutes, and get resuscitated to see if she can glimpse the afterlife. She enlists four other students to help — Jamie (James Norton), Marlo (Nina Dobrev), Sophia (Kiersey Clemons), and Ray (Diego Luna) — who find themselves enthralled by the experiment and take their own turns “flatlining.” At first, things are amazing as they find the experiment has made them super capable in anything they do. But the good times don’t last as the students start to see specters and oddities out of the corner of their eyes, all from their own pasts. If they don’t figure out the cause soon, their next flatline could be permanent.

Review: Flatliners (2017) tries to ask a lot of questions, but only winds up asking one: why is this movie so incompetent? Remade from the 1990 cult classic starring Kiefer Sutherland (who cameos as the leads’ supervisor), this film takes on the adventure of five thoroughly unlikable and underqualified medical students as they use lab equipment without permission to document their own Jackass stunts. Okay, I’m kidding about the Jackass bit, I’m most certainly not joking about the characters being complete degenerates who do some pretty rancid things and talk entirely in exposition or whining. This might not be so bad if the acting was good, but it’s not. It’s really not. This might actually be Ellen Page’s worst performance yet.

I have to say, it’s a stroke of amazing fortune that all of the members of this experiment (except for Ray because he’s some kind of wunderkind paragon) have done terrible things in their past because otherwise this movie might not have anything to do. I mean, I’m positive everyone’s done something they regret, but what are the chances that people who have [SPOILERS] gotten their sister killed, ditched their pregnant girlfriend, cyberbullied a high school rival, and covered up a patient’s death [SPOILERS OVER] all in the same school, much less the same class? Again, this does not help endear us to our protagonists, which disconnects us from their experiences. Why should we care what happens to them or what they feel if we don’t care about them to begin with?

Of course, caring is a huge problem to begin with. See, it would be bad enough that the main characters suck and the acting is limp and hokey, but they all falter before the movie’s greatest sin: it’s boring. Apologies for grabbing a low-hanging fruit, but Flatliners don’t have a pulse to call its own. I talked about the acting and dialogue before, but the scare portions are where this really becomes clear. They are bafflingly incompetent in their execution, shot and lit as amateurly as possible and using cheap blur effects… for some reason. It’s also almost entirely jump scares that I could see coming a mile away. Sure, they made me jolt, but that’s the human body’s natural response to surprise. It’s like praising a picture of honey glazed ribs for making my mouth water.

More than anything else, the movie can’t decide what it wants be, so it tries and fails at being many things. Is it a pseudoscience exploration of mortality? Is it about a supernatural haunting? Is it an uplifting film about self-forgiveness? Well, you won’t get an answer from this movie because it would rather fool around with all of these concepts than commit. None of these are meshed particularly well together either; the haunting scenes look like they were ripped right from the Ouija or Conjuring series and when placed next to the other scenes, they’re jarring to say the least. Also, I should probably mention that the effects of their flatlining visions are pretty garbage. If you’re going to play around with what happens after death, please try to make it interesting.

Thinking back to my vague memories in the theater, I can’t find anything I liked about the movie. It’s a special kind of bad that doesn’t come from being offensive anger-inducing, but by the simple absence of good. In the past, I’ve been pretty bad about calling if I’d see a worse movie after a particularly bad one, so I won’t do that here. However, I’m confident enough to say that if there is an even worse movie this year, at least it won’t try to make “If You’re Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands” scary*.

*Actually, that part was entertaining, if only because some very giggly teens in the audience and I started clapping along to the song.

Fun Tidbit: Ellen Page’s involvement is interesting because the movie’s plot bears a striking resemblance to a video game that Page starred in and provided motion caption for, Beyond: Two Souls. In the game, her character experiences supernatural encounters after making contact with the “infraworld” where the souls of the departed go after death.


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