A group of medical students investigate whether there is anything after death by using themselves as human guinea pigs and ‘flat-lining’…….
Joel Schumacher’s darkly artistic thriller is an enjoyable ride of gothic fantasy . FLATLINERS echoes Shelley’s classic tale, with an aging 80s brat pack in place of the boundary-pushing Victor Frankenstein. The performances here are all top notch but Oliver Pratt as ‘Steckle’, the thinker of the group and Julia Roberts as a frigid girl fascinated by what happens after death are the best of the bunch. A broody Kevin Bacon, sex-mad William Baldwin and of course, the dynamic Kiefer Sutherland are a joy to watch.
Schumacher lays the religious imagery thick early on in an almost hammer-esque opening credits sequence but certainly to look at, the film is a treat and the movie has a similar ‘music-video’ feel to THE LOST BOYS (1987). It must have literally been shot through blue and red filter because the colours are just so radiant in a way reminiscent at times of Argento’s work in 1980’s Inferno.
The first time one of the group – Sutherland – goes under is a fantastic piece of cinema; juxtaposing the colourful rush of the dreamy afterlife as the camera pans over lushous fields next to the grainy physical reality, seen through a camcorder, of Sutherland lying ‘dead’ on the hospital trolley.
Once our experience-hunters return from ‘death’ they bring something else back with them – apparitions of people they have wronged in the past. Sutherland brings back the ‘ghost’ of a boy he accidentally killed when he too was but a child in what are probably the most frightening and brutal parts of the film. FLATLINERS doesn’t however set out to scare the audience in any real way, it’s more of a thought-provoking thriller.
The film’s second half doesn’t live up, in the end, to the exhilarating opening hour but rarely are films able to carry momentum for so long. In addition, Schumacher’s generous helping of religious subtext may be a bit too much for the more discerning viewer.
I think that for reasons unknown FLATLINERS has been largely forgotten and perhaps knowingly dismissed by critics as an epilogue to the 80s sc-fi thriller. In my opinion, this is a mistake. A fun, intelligent and creative work which is only really let down by inadequate pacing and an overly happy ending.
Hotdog rating: 7.5/10