Director – Joel Schumacher
Cast – Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt, Kimberly Scott, Joshua Rudoy, Benjamin Mouton, Aeryk Egan, Kesha Reed
Release Year – 1990
Reviewed by John of the Dead
While Joel Schumacher is not really known as “horror” director, he made his mark on the genre with one of horror’s coolest vampire flicks, “The Lost Boys”. Three years later, he brought back Kiefer Sutherland for another positive horror film with a unique plot, titled “Flatliners”. A unique plot and Joel Schumacher’s grainy surreal elements make this film a cool watch that shows it is possible for a star-powered Hollywood film to be a great watch.
This flick stars Kiefer Sutherland as “Nelson”, a bright young medical student with a drive to be the first to settle a debate over a millennia in the making…whether or not there is life after death. How does Nelson plan to find the answer? Easy, he has enlisted the help of several fellow students for an experiment like none ever practiced before. Nelson is going to literally stop his heart, aka KILL HIMSELF, and have his fellow cohorts bring him back to life. It is then that he will really know what happens after death. Nelson survives the ordeal, but is changed forever as he has opened a door that reveals his deepest and darkest turmoils throughout his life. As his fellow classmates get in on the near-death action, they too fall victim to this ever-growing problem, which leads to drastic events.
At first I was quite unsure about whether or not this film would turn out to be a true horror flick, or would simply play off its Hollywood influence and come off as a thriller more than anything else. Thankfully, this flick turned out to be a devout horror flick in the end. The first act plays off like a thriller, an interesting one at that, but as the film progresses we get closer and closer into the horror element as we see the horror our protagonists must endure at the hands of their curiosity and greed. If you have an interest in medical sciences as I do, then you are sure to enjoy this film given it focuses strongly on the mindset of these medical students. Much like the mediocre film “Pathology”, it is nice to see how brilliant young minds can wind up just as immature and moronic as the “other” people(us).
Joel Schumacher’s direction is top-notch and he shows that his use of gritty and surreal imagery is a winner with this flick. I was iffy on it at first, but as the film progressed it fit in nicely with the content and the horror. As expected, the performances from actors Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, and Oliver Platt were positive, although due to this film’s Hollywood element we do get a fair amount of cliché bits here and there from them. Part of this can be blamed on the dialogue, which came off as overly Hollywood at times but nonetheless was sufficient at keeping my attention.
I really do not have any gripes about this film, although I really wish :spoiler approaching…: we would have been given a kill from amongst the protagonists. Yes, that is right, despite this film being about students killing themselves and coming back…NOBODY died. I did not have a huge problem with this, but a death or two would have really helped with this film’s conflict and with moving the viewer emotionally(granted you make the viewer care about the character first). Oh well.
Overall, this is a positive watch that comes with a cool plot and some positive direction by a filmmaker who has shown he has what it takes to make a sweet horror film, whether or not he is a “horror” director. Give this under-appreciated 90s horror flick a watch.