From Ghostbusters, It, to every superhero film ever, remakes and reboots have become almost routine in the world of cinema. And though most are met with general cynicism and poor reception, every year we see more and more remakes hitting the big screen. And so every year we hear more of the same question: why do we keep rehashing old ideas?
Perhaps the film industry is out of great ideas. Perhaps they’re trying to reinvent great concepts to allow for generational accessibility. Or maybe studios just think they can make money off of them. I guess it depends on who you talk to. But while the debate fascinates me, I am not here today to theorize about the incessant need for reboots. I’m here to talk about Hollywood’s latest controversial remake: Flatliners.
I saw the original 90s film back when I was in high school and quite frankly, I loved the concept. The film completely immersed me in its dark chaos, and though many of the characters were unlikable to say the least, the movie was beautifully done. And when I found out that a remake was in the works, I couldn’t decide if I was more angry or amused. But as the cast was announced, I became less and less skeptical. By the time the trailer dropped, I felt genuinely excited. This film actually seemed to hold some potential.
If you follow film news, you’ll have heard the devastating reviews of Flatliners. You’ll have heard that there should have been a DNR order issued on the original, and that the remake is inconclusive, dull, and another prime example of why remakes are a terrible idea. I’m here to tell you otherwise. Is this movie perfect? No. The newest Flatliners definitely had its issues, and there were moments I would’ve liked to see executed differently. But Flatliners isn’t a bad movie. In fact, if you separate yourself from the assumption that all remakes are bad and separate this film from the original, you’ll actually find it quite enjoyable.
Let’s talk criticism first. Strictly referring to plot, this film doesn’t waver too much from its predecessor. But this shouldn’t be surprising. Let’s look at the official IMDB summaries, shall we?
Five medical students experiment on “near death” experiences that involve past tragedies until the dark consequences begin to jeopardize their lives.
Five medical students, obsessed by what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring experiment: by stopping their hearts for short periods, each triggers a near-death experience – giving them a firsthand account of the afterlife.
Though the 2017 summary doesn’t mention it, our protagonists still suffer the consequences of their pasts. And though this concept is intriguing enough, there was a great opportunity to expand upon Keifer Sutherland’s character. An opportunity they didn’t take advantage of. This would’ve given the film an edge and a new element of surprise that likely would’ve boosted its rating. Do not go into the theater expecting an entire new story. You’ll be disappointed if you do. But while the plot is the same, the characters are certainly not. And this time around, it isn’t just a boy’s club.
While the original protagonists consisted of four men and one woman, the remake is much more balanced with two men and three women. Not only that, but we have women portraying the roles usually written for men. Our mastermind behind the whole experiment of flatlining is Courtney, played the captivating Ellen Page. And our daredevil of the group, many would argue, is Marlo, played by the fantastic Nina Dobrev. Kiersey Clemons plays Sophia, a dedicated and overachieving student wearing herself thin. James Norton plays Jamie, and though he’s a slightly cocky playboy, he manages to avoid the stereotypical portrayal we’re all used to seeing. And then of course we have Ray, the level-headed skeptic, played by the incomparable Diego Luna.
On the outside, each of these characters may seem stock, but trust me when I say they are far from it. What makes them relatable is the fact that each of them have moments outside of themselves, when they act differently or make decisions that are outside of what their summaries suggest. They have unexpected moments of vulnerability or hilarity, bringing tenderness to a horror film. And it’s that balance between humor and horror that makes Flatliners work. The movie is dark, but it’s certainly more lighthearted than the original. And that’s entirely thanks to the cast.
The horror genre is evolving. Sure, we still have our jump scares, monsters under our beds and skeletons in our closets. But horror movies aren’t just about fear anymore, and in my opinion, that’s what makes them good. I like a movie with more than one element, and Flatliners qualifies. It’s fun, it’s scary, and it’s accessible to this generation. The remake of Flatliners is an exciting ride for all newcomers, but it can still be enjoyable to those familiar with the original, if you allow it to be. And the fact of the matter is if the only thing that makes it “a bad movie” is the fact that it’s a remake, let us ask ourselves, is it truly a bad movie?
Feel free to share your thoughts on this latest horror remake in the comments, but remember this is a safe place, so let’s keep it civil. As always, thanks for reading!