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"Flatliners" Review: A Brain Dead Movie About Brain Death. How Meta!

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | September 29, 2017 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | September 29, 2017 |

Flatliners is a brain-dead remake of a 27-year-old brain dead film about 27-year-olds brain dead enough to take up brain death as a hobby.

The header picture above is far more entertaining than any part of this interminable movie, and contains more effort by the actors than every scene in the entire movie combined. Just print it out, tape it to a popsicle stick and make it dance while singing “let’s die! Oh noes we played god!” for ninety straight minutes and then send me the ten bucks I saved you on the ticket price.

The story is exactly the same as the 1990 movie. I think. I saw it a long time ago and it was stupid and I don’t really remember. This one is also stupid, and I look forward to forgetting about it too.

The rest of this review is filled with spoilers. Because it’s all spoiled in the trailer anyway. And in the first version of the movie with Pretty Woman and Jack Bauer. And by Pet Semetary. And The Lazarus Effect. And every other movie you’ve ever seen where humans play god and bring people back from the dead.

So some med students decide that they’re going to stop their hearts and then restart them in order to mimic near death experiences. At no point is any plausible reason given for why a bunch of doctors think this is an entertaining or even vaguely intelligent thing to do. I know that I sit around and think, self, you know what would be cool? A heroin overdose without the high. But then I’m not that kind of doctor. It can’t be that they’re trying to save money on expensive drugs, because they all live in the sort of luxury places that would make the characters on Friends jealous. One dude lives on a yacht! But somehow his life is so boring he takes up temporary suicide to pass the time. Rich people problems, amirite?

When “dead” they go out of body and see vaguely creepy things. Imagine the Upside Down. Except boring in every way. Then when they get all shock paddled back to life, they have a euphoria rush and super skills. And by super skills I mean completely mundane things like remembering how to play the piano. Whoopity fucking doo, move over Fantastic Four. Five fucking medical degrees to invent autoerotic asphyxiation without all the fun parts.

Then as anyone who has ever seen a movie could predict, the other shoe drops. Which means that they start seeing hallucinations of people they’ve wronged. A dozen cheap jump scares later, our crack team of medical experts comes to the highly scientific conclusion that repeated oxygen deprivation to the brain has caused neural damage inducing hallucinations.


Sigh. No, of course not. They think they’ve seen the after life and now they are being haunted and they need to earn the forgiveness of the ghosts or whatever. Or forgive themselves. I don’t know, Bob Marley’s ghost wasn’t there to explain the plot.

The cast they managed to assemble is inexplicable. Ellen Page has nothing better to do than this shit? Yeah, I get that they can’t all be classic cinema like Juno homeskillet, but the whole thing’s on a $19 million budget so I don’t think she got a cut big enough to qualify under the “one for you, one for them” acting compromise of aught-seven. And Diego Luna? This is the script you choose for the Rogue One goodwill tour? Could be worse, I suppose. His next film is Untitled Woody Allen Project. Nina Dobrev I can understand. She’s realizing life outside the Vampire Diaries and the comforting nest of the CW is cold and dark, and is now deep in 2005 Sarah Michelle Gellar territory.

And Kiefer Sutherland shows up because apparently he has already blown through a decade of 24 money. It’s utterly unclear whether he’s playing a different character than the original and his presence is an homage, or whether he’s playing the same character but with memory loss. He looks like this:


His character is basically if House fucked Jack Bauer and the baby had progeria.


I would watch the hell out of that show. Unless it was on CBS All Access. It’s not like I’d pay for it. Just like you shouldn’t pay to see Flatliners.

Dr. Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at You can email him here.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.