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Review: ‘Flatliners’ is Light on Thrills, Chemistry & Frights

As with the 1990 original, this year’s version of Flatliners sees young medical students taking their lives into their own hands, temporarily inducing death in an effort to peer beyond the veil and into the afterlife. You may have already detected that this is a Very. Bad. Idea. Because something follows Ellen Page and her mates back from the beyond? Well, yes, that happens. It’s also a terrible notion to revisit a film filled with the intoxicating rush of flirting with death and venturing beyond the limits of science if you’re doing so in such tepid fashion as seen here.

Beyond the basic concept, an occasional borrowed narrative beat or two, and a cameo from a prominent 1990 cast member, there’s not much else in common with the admittedly imperfect prior version of this tale. Page’s gang of students display none of the vitality or chemistry of either the original ensemble (or anyone at all, really) that might be up to this sort of dodgy self-experimentation. Nor does the film capture the compulsive rush of what they’re up to either, although it admittedly does try half-heartedly.

And, crucially, Flatliners’ scares aren’t all that impressive, either. When they’re of the simplest, traditional, strange-noise-in-the-house/sailboat, hey, maybe-it’s-a-ghost-or-something variety they’re functional enough, if no more. But the more elaborate they become in an effort to goad an audience response, the more they end up doing the opposite. Even working within the parameters of an R13 rating, there’s absolutely no reason for the horror elements not to connect, especially when they are interwoven with secret shames of those flatlining. Here’s where one of the fatal flaws of the film comes in – our near-zero investment in its characters.

Light on thrills, chemistry, or frights, Flatliners squanders a fun concept before wrapping it up in perfunctory fashion, guaranteeing none of its cast are likely to turn up in a new version in another 27 years time.

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