Susan Granger’s review of “Flatliners” (Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems)
Hollywood has suffered a disastrous summer because the major studios have raided the franchise larder too many times – and this unnecessary remake is one of the worst.
Back in 1990, Joel Schumacher’s psychological horror/thriller picture was not only Oscar-nominated but made the top 20 box-office hits of the year. Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon, it had a provocative premise which is repeated this time ‘round.
Riddled by guilt over her role in the drowning death of her sister, medical student Courtney Holmes (Ellen Page) is morbidly curious about the afterlife. Determined to use an MRI to map brain activity after ‘death,’ she initiates an experiment in which her heart is stopped, she ‘dies’ and is then revived.
Afterwards, Courtney discovers that her consciousness has been expanded and her abilities amplified; she not only plays Debussy on the piano and bakes bread but also diagnoses her patients’ symptoms with unerring accuracy, recalling everything she’s every learned.
Naturally, her colleagues – insecure Sophia (Kiersey Clemons), cocky Jamie (James Norton) and driven Marlo (Nina Dobrev) – are determined to have their turn in the chair in the hospital’s sublevel C ‘lab’. Only reluctant, ex-fireman Ray (Diego Luna) tenaciously abstains.
Inevitably, there’s a traumatic price to be paid for dabbling in this ethical/moral/legal dilemma – and it’s horrifyingly high.
Working from Ben Ripley’s shallow, utterly predictable, rebooted script, Danish director Niels Arden Oplev (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) lumbers the contrived, repetitive narrative along at a slow pace, delivering only banal imagery and minimal, generic scares.
In homage to his role of Nelson Wright, Kiefer Sutherland makes a brief appearance as the authoritative, gray-haired dean of the medical school.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Flatliners” is a tepid 3. Why bother?