Flatliners
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Flatliners can be found here.

Four medical students -- Joe Hurley (William Baldwin), David Labraccio (Kevin Bacon), Randy Steckle (Oliver Platt), and Rachel Mannus (Julia Roberts) -- help colleague Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland) conduct a dangerous experiment in which his heart is stopped and then resuscitated, the goal being to learn what happens after death. One by one, the rest of the students do the same until they begin to experience hallucinations brought on by their unleashed memories. When one of those hallucinations suddenly becomes physical and harms Nelson, the students realize they are in danger for things they have done in the past.

No. Flatliners is based on a screenplay written by Peter Filardi. However, the story was novelized in 1990 by Leonore Fleischer.

He was a crack cocaine user having a fit.

She was hemorrhaging vaginally. Nelson suspects that it was due to a botched street abortion.

The procedure, as described by Nelson, is this:

(1) Anesthetize him with sodium pentothal and nitrous oxide.
(2) Cool down his body temperature with a refrigerated blanket.
(3) When body temp reaches 86F, zap him with 200 joules to stop the heartbeat.
(4) When the heart is 'dead', take off the nitrous mask.
(5) When the electroencephalogram (EEG) flatlines, wait 30 seconds then begin warming the body.
(6) When the body has reached 96F, inject 1cc adrenalin and wait for one more minute.
(7) Zap him again with the defibrillator in order to start his heart beating again.

Hoka Hey. It's a Sioux war cry.

Bretylium is real. It is an anti-arrhythmic drug used for ventricular tachycardia (rapid heart beat) and fibrillation (irregular heart beat). One of its side effects is hypotension (low blood pressure), so it's presumed that the reason Bretylium would 'fry' Rachel is that, if it didn't result in giving her back a steady heartbeat, the side effect of lowering her blood pressure would guarantee her death.

How does the movie end?

When Nelson realizes that he can't make amends for accidentally killing Billy Mahoney because Billy is already dead, he decides to flatline one more time. He calls Rachel to apologize for getting her into this and to tell her that he's going under again. Joe, David, and Randy, figuring that Nelson is going to try flatlining alone, essentially killing himself because there would be no one there to resuscitate him, hurry over to the lab where they find Nelson lying on the table 'dead'. They immediately begin to zap him with the defibrillator in an attempt to resuscitate him. Rachel comes racing in and announces that it's been nine minutes since Nelson called her. Rachel tries to get an airway but Nelson's trachea is too tight, so they are forced to bag him and apply CPR to his heart. As they work feverishly to revive him, Nelson is shown on the other side with Billy Mahoney, only this time its Nelson in the tree, and Billy is the one throwing rocks. Screaming for his life, Nelson falls out of the tree. After 12 minutes, they conclude that Nelson is dead, but David refuses to give up and zaps him again. On the other side, David is stirred to consciousness and sees Billy standing over him and smiling. Billy waves goodbye and walks away. Hearing voices calling to him, Nelson runs in their direction. Back in the lab, Nelson's heart suddenly starts beating again, his eyelids flutter, and his mask clouds over from his breath. In the final scene, Nelson whispers into David's ear, 'It wasn't such a good day to die.'

Page last updated by bj_kuehl, 7 months ago
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