For those still wondering, let me clear up something very basic for you upfront: this is not Flatliners 2. It’s Flatliners. This is a straight-up remake, despite what the producers and Keifer Sutherland may have told you. It is not a sequel. Sutherland does not play the same character he did back in 1990. As with last year’s Ghostbusters, for some reason someone thought it was a good idea to sell this thing as if it existed within some grander continuity with the original. And just like that other misshapen, lumpy redo, this one misses the point of what made its source material interesting.
This is very poor filmmaking. The script makes no sense, often ignoring completely what was said, done or shown in a previous scene to keep itself moving forward into the next one. The acting is borderline heroic for the amount of melodramatic tension the cast must constantly attempt to squeeze out of barely-there characters and situations, with only Dope’s Kiersey Clemons coming across as something resembling an actual human being. And the cinematography and effects work aren’t just derivative, they often point to very specific — and ultimately meaningless — points of reference. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Enter the Void and even Ghost all get visual shoutouts, with the payoff being that you wish you were watching those other films instead of this one (whatever else you may think of Ghost, I still maintain that the Vincent Schiavelli scenes were cool and that the film should have been focused on his character instead of whatever the hell else it was supposed to be about).
What this boils down to is that Flatliners never really settles on what kind of film it wants to be. It sticks to the themes and devices of the original but is so tone deaf that each new sequence becomes a jarring, confusing mess. The afterlife settings don’t even really register, since they tell us next to nothing about the characters who visit them.
But the most bizarre aspect of the new Flatliners is that it wholly ignores the fact that we know a lot more about the human brain than we did at the end of the ’80s. With new understandings of neurotransmitters, blood flow, the limbic system and even DMT surges, any first-year med student would probably crack open a few more books or ask just one or two more questions before deciding to commit temporary suicide in order to find out “what happens to us when we die.” It’s not that I’m looking for real science from my horror remakes. I’m just saying that this is the premise of the movie, and they get it utterly, hopelessly wrong. Even Joel Schumacher knew enough to not botch his film this badly. Oh, and for the record, yes, his version was just as ridiculous as this one, but it was at least entertaining and didn’t make me want to jump up on that table and ask my friends to stop my heart.