This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. A review of the unedited version would be even more negative. All thoughts below should be addressed as such
It’s time to look at a film that went under but never came back. It flatlined so early on into the film that I figured they had named it after watching their own film. This one’s pretty terrible so I’m just going to be direct and say that you should stay far away from it. You’ll find out why this is the case below so prepare yourself! Prepare for a journey that you’ll never forget..but not in a good way!
Nelson, Randy, Rachel, Joe, and David are scientists with morally dubious pasts and they are willing to cross any line in the name of science. Nelson has decided that for his latest trick he’s going to intentionally flatline so he can see what happens after death. After all, his mind will still be alive even if his body is temporarily dead. The other students forget to point out that there have been many people with near death experiences and they didn’t see anything so why would he? Instead they throw him onto the stretcher and destroy him. When Nelson comes out, he’s a changed man. He shows up to the base bruised every day but encourages them to give it a try. Gradually the rest of the characters try it out except for Randy. He’s a little smarter than the others and decides not to risk his life for absolutely no reason.
This is a very mean spirited film which is why it’s so bad. The main characters aren’t even remotely likable. Lets start with Nelson. When he was a kid he bullied someone to death with a bunch of his friends and even took care of the dog. In case you were wondering, this is basically the point where the film dropped to a 0. Don’t get me wrong, it was already at around a 2 or so by this point but this sealed the deal. Sure, he “didn’t mean” to destroy the two since he panicked afterwards, but if you’re throwing rocks at a kid who’s high up in a tree..what did you think was going to happen?
Each character is cursed by their past in this film so as a result he ends up getting bullied by the kid that he destroyed. It’s pretty interesting to see a little kid show up with a baseball bat each day to knock him around. It’s pretty surreal and clearly Nelson never learned how to fight. He gets the most violent curse from all of the main characters and only lives due to plot hax and bad writing.
Next up is David. When he was a kid he bullied a girl along with a bunch of his friends and essentially forced her to move away and restart her life. Again, there’s no sympathy to be had with this main character. It’s hard to call his past a mistake since he was definitely old enough to know better. Reminds me of A Silent Voice and that’s never a good thing. David’s also not that great in the present and he should have stuck to his “NO” answer at the beginning of the film. The instant he walked into the lab you knew it was curtains for him.
Joe’s another bad main character. Essentially he would flirt with everyone and they were so free that they’d follow him home. They wouldn’t notice the cameras he set up as he had his fun with them and recorded the whole scenario. As a result his curse is that these women show up at his house….and flirt with him. It’s such a weak curse that you have to wonder what the writers were doing. Joe never even gets to feel bad about this. He certainly doesn’t seem to regret it since he kept the tapes around for all of these years. Why couldn’t we have one nice teenager who flatlines and comes out with no side effects because he wasn’t a jerk? There should be at least one nice guy in the group, but granted….a nice person probably wouldn’t hang out with these lowlifes.
Finally there’s Rachel. Her curse is because she seemingly blames her father for destroying himself. I mean…it’s hard not to hold a bit of a grudge over such a selfish action. Her flashback was kind of all over the place though and she gets over the case by putting him to peace. Sure, you have to let go at some point, but it was definitely an odd plot line. Hey, she was never a bully at least so that’s a consolation.
The film also has downright terrible writing. All of the characters are constantly swearing so much that you have to wonder what a limited vocabulary they have. The writing is also limited by the fact that the main characters are so bad since naturally they aren’t going to have any good lines. You won’t be surprised to hear that the romance is absolutely terrible here as well. They’re certainly not conservative teens so you can imagine how they just skip the formalities and the important parts of romance. They don’t seem to care about that kind of stuff. The random fanservice scenes through the curse were also completely unnecessary and the film was certainly going for all of the low hanging fruit to try and get extra tickets.
Overall, Flatliners is an absolutely dreadful film. The cast of characters are terrible and they got off rather easily. Nelson in particular tried to murder David, he did murder a kid in the past, he murdered a dog, and what he got in return for this was being beaten up a few times. That’s it…he’s now good to go. It’s not all bad as that would have made the film even more mean spirited I guess so it’s a lose-lose, but the film put itself into that position. It’s just really hard to sit through this mess because there is nobody to root for and no positive aspect to cling too. It’s the definition of an annoying teen film. I can’t say that I have high hopes for the stand alone sequel either. With a title like this, you just knew that the film was going to stay down.