Cult Movie: Original Flatliners should have had a Do Not Resuscitate note attached

Flatliners – the remake's basic premise remains much the same but it's a lifeless affair
Ralph McLean

THE remake juggernaut will always trundle down the Hollywood highway. I mean, why bother with original ideas when there's decades of original ones to plunder and rehash?

That most re-makes stink like unloved Stilton hardly matters when the cash registers start ringing. As long as remakes put bums on cinema seats the powers that be will always fall back on them in times of doubt. Where Tinsel Town's endless infatuation with pointless reimaginings really hits a pothole in the road, though, is when the original film being remade isn't actually much cop in the first place.

That's the problem with last year's reboot of Flatliners, freshly released on Blu-ray through Sony Pictures. The 1990 original was a neat idea, executed with enough simplicity to make it an acceptable fantasy film but really it was never the classic that the people behind this confused new version clearly thought it was.

The basic premise this time out remains much the same. A gang of fresh-faced medical students stop their hearts for a few minutes to see what life is really like on the other side. They each experience terrifying visions of the afterlife that haunt them in the present.

The 1990 original zoomed in those afterlife experiences and offered up a genuinely human, if ultimately not particularly impressive, tale of making peace with your past. The 2017 version jettisons much of that existential angst and replaces it with a straightforward horror movie format that neither convinces or truly frightens across the film's 110-minute running time.

The result is less of the creeping dread that informed the original and more of the standard jump scares that clog up just about every teenage horror film that oozes out of Hollywood these days.

Kiefer Sutherland's character of Nelson is replaced here by Ellen Page's Courtney who fronts a female-heavy cast that includes Mario (Nina Dobrev) and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons).

While that certainly beats the sole female role taken by Julia Roberts in the original, it hardly makes this a groundbreaking feminist effort either as all the characters struggle with flimsy characterisations that never really allow them to create anything more than simple horror movie clichés.

Danish director Niels Arden Opley has also seen fit to imbue the Flatliners with post-afterlife powers this time out, which seems a bad idea from the start. It's almost as if the film is toying with the idea of being a superhero movie in disguise and it's a tatty attempt to add something more supernatural to the basic premise.

As with most films aimed squarely at teenage audiences, there are lots of sex scenes, endless parties and drunken antics. The result is a mess of a film that never captures the moral heart or soul of the frankly overrated original.

What could have been a flashy upgrade winds up feeling like a pointless homage to something like Final Destination with its box-ticking, horror-by-numbers predictability.

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