Flatliners (1990) Poster

(1990)

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8/10
Everything we do matters....
Lagniappe2 December 2001
I've been intending to write a review of this film for some time, but only now have I actually managed to get my thoughts down for the perusal of others.

I never had the pleasure of seeing this film on the `big screen' which is a shame, as it is often visually stunning, but I have revisited it on video numerous times over the years, enjoying it immensely every time. It definitely is on my personal list of favorite movies, and for more than just starring Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon, two of my `actors to watch.'

Perhaps I appreciate this film so much because it appeals to my slightly off-kilter taste in entertainment. I like my movies a bit left of center - unpredictable and fresh. And whether or not you `believe' the story line of the film, you have to admit, it is different!

Everyone has different tastes and opinions, but my impression of some of the negative reviews of this movie is that the viewers never really saw past the surface level of this film. They got caught up in technicalities, `Why would there be green lighting in a subway?' or `Why would medical students pull such a stupid stunt?' and failed to see the artistry and psychological depth of the piece.

Yes, there are some medical and technical aspects that do not make logical sense, but if you are willing to suspend disbelief just a tad, this can be a very engaging film.

First, a note about the artistic quality of the movie. Some have complained about the murky lighting, and the illogical nature of the sets - but for me, the use of innovating lighting techniques, the plastic and sheet draped sets, the unusual settings in old buildings and dank, dripping tunnels, the use of statuary, rain and billowing curtains - all add a poetic flavor to this film, a haunting beauty that suits the dark nature of the questions being asked about life, death and forgiveness.

I will focus on just two examples; in an alley scene, a change in lighting allows for certain elements of the set to come dramatically into focus, then to fade away once lighting returns to normal. It is an innovative means of conveying a shift in the `reality' of the moment, and works beautifully. We are also allowed to see the interior of the character's apartments - contrast the warm wood, bright colors, golden lighting and cluttered comfort of Labraccio's rooms with the stark, white void of Nelson's. Both are reflective of the characters themselves. Nelson's lack of `objects' reflect our lack of knowledge about his past. and his carefully constructed mask that keeps his companions at a distance. His past, we come to learn, is one of chaos and conflict. He has determined to leave that behind in favor of an uncluttered emptiness. unfortunately, the emptiness is also reflective of his relationships with others, a realization he comes to along his personal journey of self-discovery in this film.

Flatliners is not your typical horror film. Nor is a typical drama or suspense movie.it is rather more of an amalgamation of all, having the best elements of all genres intertwined in a complex, suspenseful plot.

This is an ensemble piece, and the cast does an excellent job of breathing life into their individual characters. Your immediate impression is that the characters are each representative of a well-established `stereotype': The female ice queen, the slightly neurotic 'physician', the playboy and the socially conscious `nice guy' etc. However, as the film progresses and the characters are further fleshed out, they take on multiple dimensions and depth.

Most interesting of all is Sutherland's character of Nelson. Nelson is not a character that is easy to like - indeed he is a bit of a b**tard, a master manipulator who definitely places self-interest above all else. Yet, Sutherland plays him with a hint of insecurity that lends him a certain appeal. As events unfold, you come to realize that much of Nelson's unpleasant personality is a smokescreen, a protective mask behind which hides a very uncertain and vulnerable young man burdened by a terrible secret.

By revealing bits and pieces of Nelson's complex personality throughout the film, the writers, directors and cast gradually lead you towards a greater understanding of and sympathy for him. The character who started out as a `jerk' becomes important and valued in his own right - as you learn to `forgive' his previous behavior in light of new information. Your journey of discovery with Nelson reflects the characters own journeys towards self-understanding, as they too come to realize that everyone has value, and `everything we do matters.'

Which leads to my final comment. Although many of the posters here have picked up upon the theme of defying death.. few seem to have touched upon what I see as the main premise of the movie - the importance of forgiveness, and the need to be cognizant of all you do, because it does `matter.'
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8/10
One of Schumachers better ones
Raymond21 October 2011
I recall seeing this movie three times, first in the early 90s, then 00s and now I just saw it again and each time I've grown more fond of it. There is something in Schumachers style that drags me into it. The story is OK, nothing really remarkable. It's one part ghost story, one part medical thriller, one part love triangle.

What really makes this movie worthwhile is Schumachers direction. He's got a very good eye for this Gothic style. One might wonder why the school was so poorly lit, or what exactly was the place they did their experiments at, but it's all for the mood, it's all style. Sometimes style does go over substance, but in this case they work hand in hand. The Gothic architecture and gloomy late autumnal Chicago are just what this movie needed. Just like The Lost Boys IS small town sunny California. Schumacher should've stuck to this style which clearly is his forte, but sadly he has since had a very varying career with only occasional hits.

The cast is great, all of the stars have gone a long way since. Makes one only wonder what could've become of William Baldwin had he made better career moves. He is very good in this movie. I've always liked Kiefer Sutherland as a movie actor, and he does a remarkable job here too. I really would've rather seen him as a full time movie actor rather than going for TV.

There is only one thing that bothers me in this movie and it's the story in all it's simplicity. If people have had near death experiences before and have come back to tell, what new did this crew try to achieve? If not only have personal experience of death, but I got the idea most of them were in it for the science. Why risk brain damage and gamble with life for something you will not get any proof anyway. Especially given that they are medical students, the story is not 100 % believable, but like I stated earlier, watch this movie more for the mood.

I'm glad it's already been so long since the 90s so one can start appreciate the movies of this decade again without getting caught on the hairdos and such.
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7/10
A vaguely original horror idea
mentalcritic10 November 2004
The basic premise of Flatliners is fairly simple. Several medical students put themselves at the point of death in order to find out exactly what the brain does during the fact. It sounds like something a mob of bored students would do for a joke, but it forms the basis of some very creepy substories. In today's world, where Hollywood has to mine foreign markets for the ideas to make a horror film, Flatliners is one of those rare gems that show Hollywood can make something different when it tries hard enough.

What separates Flatliners from a lot of films based on this premise that would come out today is that it does not stoop to being condescending or arrogant. Flatliners recognises that people go to films to be entertained, not moralised to. In this kind of supernatural thriller, the difference this restraint makes is really incredible. What's even more incredible is that Julia Roberts appears without being annoying or demonstrating that she can only play Julia Roberts. The theory of obscurity, that performing artists do their best work with the smallest audience, is in force here.

The subplots concerning what the characters find during their loss of pretty much everything that makes them alive, and how it comes back to intrude on their present time, are done surprisingly well. The moments when William Baldwin's character finds his personal videotape collection coming back to haunt him are especially intriguing. That William Baldwin seems so perfectly cast in the role says a lot either about the script or the direction. I am not sure which.

Kiefer Sutherland, on the other hand, really shines as the lead. One really feels for him as the mystery of what past experience is intruding on the present and why unfolds. As Kevin Bacon's character goes to find an old school pier whose life he made hell and tell her how sorry he is, it becomes clearer what the film is about. We can try to change the past as much as we like, but it's what we do with the present that matters most.

Another good aspect of Flatliners is how it achieves an atmosphere without the use of expensive, elaborate visual effects. Quite unusually for what is essentially a horror film, Flatliners did not expend its budget in places where it did not need to. Much of what we see during the more surreal sequences is a case of professional pretending, simple trick photography, or stock footage. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

If there is a problem with the film, it's that it feels about ten minutes too short. The ending seems more perfunctory than conclusive, as if someone in the studio asked the director to wrap the film up so they can bring it out at a certain market time. Of course, many films have been left with sore spots for this very reason, so Flatliners shouldn't really need to be any different. The hundred and fifteen minutes we do get is highly satisfactory, though not overly brilliant.

I gave Flatliners a seven out of ten. It works well as a date flick or a kind of late-night popcorn film. That aside, it makes a good reminder that low-budget horror shows weren't always sad pieces of garbage.
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8/10
An Excellent Thriller With An Excellent Cast
Justin Crann3 September 2006
When I first watched Flatliners, I was amazed. It had all the necessary features of a good movie: the cast was superb, the plot was superb, and in the case of thrillers, there was genuine "thrills" throughout.

Keifer Sutherland offered a marvelous performance as the male lead in the piece, portraying a scientist who believes he can find the answers to life and death by killing himself and then coming back to life, essentially "stealing" death's secrets away. Kevin Bacon offers an excellent performance as the more morally decent counterpart to Keifer, while Julia Roberts offers her most convincing role. William Baldwin portrays a student who excels in class and, apparently, intercourse. And Oliver Platt, in another outstanding performance, portrays the voice of reason for the group and the most innocent.

The story is relatively simple, yet original, and the acting is refreshing-- definitely a stand out film for the genre, and one that has set the standard for measuring other thrillers for me.

8/10.
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9/10
Afterlife, Sins and Atonement
Claudio Carvalho16 December 2017
The medical student Nelson Wright (Kiefer Sutherland) invites Joe Hurley (William Baldwin), David Labraccio (Kevin Bacon), Rachel Mannus (Julia Roberts) and Randy Steckle (Oliver Platt), who are friends from his class, to participate in a near death experiment where he will die for one minute to see whether there is afterlife or not. After the successful result, Nelson tells that there is something afterlife and hides that he saw the boy Billy Mahoney that he used to bully with his friends. The next to try is Joe, who likes to secretly videotape women that he has sex. He stays dead for a longer time and has an erotic experience. Then the atheist David is the next to try the experiment for a longer time. He sees the black girl Winnie Hicks that he used to bully at school, and later he is haunted by her. David tries to convince Rachel Mannus to avoid the experiment but she is already dead when he arrives at the university. Soon Rachel is haunted by her deceased father that she believes died because of her. David learns that Nelson is haunted and injured by Billy Mahoney and discovers that they are haunted by their sins and atonement is the only way out. What will happen to them?

"Flatliners" is a suspenseful horror film directed by Joel Schumacher in 1990 with a great cast. The storyline of afterlife, sins and atonement is original and well-resolved. Unfortunately this great storyline was recently used in a totally unnecessary remake. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Linha Mortal" ("Mortal Line")
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10/10
"Hello, I'm nice, he's nice, we're both f**king lunatics. Can I come in, please?"
james-forrest30 December 2007
Im usually wary of movies hovering around the 6/10 mark on IMDb. Id like to think people know what they are talking about and know what they like. I guess the trick with reviewing is to take an approach of "Hey, if i liked types of movies like these- would i give it a higher score than i am about to give it now since I don't like these types of movies" Then again people judge differently , basing more value on acting, or perhaps story or directing. Anyway, landing the plane here- i had rented this movie out before and hadn't had time to watch it, this morning i did.

Wow! See this movie. I am personally interested in the paranormal/have read a bit about near death experiences, so automatically i was hooked. I am unsure about some of the comments here saying that a quality cast here was wasted - i disagree- the acting here was superb from all- i think this is the only time i didn't mind Julia Roberts, it was good to see 24's Kiefer Sutherland (Currently at the time of this review, serving a jail sentence for DUI), and Kevin Bacon sporting an interesting hair style.

Overall- i liked the direction, the atmosphere, the acting, and the story line most of all- particularly the idea of karma, and , to quote Nelson Wright "Everything we does matters" So true.

10/10!
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8/10
Good premise into well-told story
Drooch9 April 2003
Flatliners has all the ingredients of a good Joel Schumacher film - intelligent, youthful characters, stunning cinematography, a gripping story, and excellent performances. It's escapist fun but it's done very well and resonates with a positive spiritual message despite the unnerving precedings.

Schumacher has a knack for spotting talented young actors, and all of the main five here have gone on to greater things (see the cast list). Their believable performances help to raise this movie well above average. Kiefer Sutherland shines in his egotistical med-student role.

The cinematography really stimulates the right side of the brain, which is what I love about Schumacher; his use of light and location create images that stick. A disturbing nightmarish atmosphere is created which unsettles you while you watch the film and haunts you when you go to bed - reminded me of The Lost Boys.

This is a film that takes an awesome premise - curious students want to find out what's after death, and successfully follows it through into a scary, gripping tale of redemption. One of Schumacher's best; highly recommended.
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7/10
Flatliners builds a Suspension Bridge between Life and Death, then starts walking on it
Countless TV displays and the memorable appearances from 4 of today's mega-stars(plus Hope Davis's screen debut) keep Flatliners still in prudence. The plot is about a non-academic research of five medicine undergrads pursuing one's crazy idea on discovering the secret of death, and learn what's after death, then come back to life again. Yet the storyline hasn't been designed as fascinating as the idea of the plot.

There are popular stereotypes to develop a regular teen-slasher script in Flatliners. There is Nelson who creates the idea of decoding death, pretty but introverted Rachel, David who cuts the Gordian knot on luckily not to be dismissed from the school, ladies' man Joe and finally the smart guy Randy("I did not come to medical school to murder my class mates no matter how deranged they might be"). They join hands altogether in an experiment where Nelson's heart will be stopped and rerythmed. Then they decide to continue this experiment in strict confidence at night times in the campus. Not long after Nelson's experience everyone starts a race over having the wildest and the longest death experience, risking their lives one by one. Yet, soon they realize their daily life becomes affected from those experiences they had. The visits to the afterlife brings back their delinquent feelings from their childhood memories. Depolarizing their deep subconscious watchfulness, they begin having somatic delusions and visual hallucinations.

When the point comes where the explanation of subconscious, director Joel Schumacher skips that every humankind has a subconscious personality which they are not aware of. This inner personality keeps one from altering into identity loss. If you lose or if you depolarize this subconscious personality you certainly lose your identity instead of refreshing childhood memories. I wanted to add this as a movie mistake, which already has been mentioned via movie critics in the earlier 90s'. Obviously here in this movie Schumacher made the actors have it least affected. Then why do they hesitate continuing on the experiment after learning their lesson, as if death is designed indiscoverable by God? David had been introduced as an Atheist, now he turned out to believe in God when he recalled a flashback from his childhood. After witnessing this 180 degreed change in David, it's clear to see that Schumacher's film was so conservative and lily-livered; that's ultimately why it's never classified as a work of science fiction. Alas! It had a good potential. It even tried to tell the unconscious maturation from having a death experience, beginning to believe that death is so simply natural and it's only a part of a human's life.

More than what's in the movie, it was also memorable to recall what's with the movie. Jan de Bont as the cinematographer, who had worked almost every time with Schumacher, creates an dreamy atmosphere like it's being an Gothic horror movie. The blue color schemes all over the walls reflecting into the actors' faces deliver first class of lighting, that suits perfectly with the film. The close-up shots of the gargoyle statues in the campus buildings, Catholic frescoes in the walls, stop-motion cameras, and the dynamic camera speeds were all belong to Bont's skills.

Flatliners became a cult movie in time with its sociological pen-portrait of the X-generation juvenile especially via its futuristic editing style with storyboard connection sequences like being part of a video music clip so much aesthetically. Those were the times where fast-paced and multi-sequenced video music clips were on rise. This style was very rare to come across in those years after its pioneer Tony Scott's "The Hunger(1983)".
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A dark, original thriller
nitehawk-82 July 1999
Hmmm.... Since I love Kiefer Sutherland so much, my review might be a little biased. He was, however, pretty good in Flatliners. A wonderful idea for a movie, and a great gothic-type thriller. Sutherland's guilt and fright at the return of boy he taunted terribly when he was young (I'll try not to give away the rest) seemed genuine, especially since he seems drawn more often than not to act characters that are a**holes (there was really no other way to put it). As a young medical school student, his research into life after death draws his friends into dangerous situations and a great finale. The medical school did seem a little sub-standard, though, I will admit. Kevin Bacon is great in Flatliners, as is one of my favorite sarcastic actors, Oliver Platt. William Baldwin's also a cutie and did okay, and though I'm not a Julia Roberts fan, so did she. The plot will draw you in and keep you on the edge of your seat, and there's an interesting dark atmosphere pervaded by a lot of red and blue for emotional impact. A good movie.. I'd give it at least an 8 out of 10
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9/10
Excellent thriller flick!!
jmix2k421 March 2006
Can't get much eerier than Flatliners. This deep, dark film had my heart pumping throughout. The lighting is dark and will get you in the mood for a death defying experience, literally. Keifer is in top form as he is today in 24. He's a great actor and he plays a very convincing and shocking role you won't forget for years to come. And what can you say for the rest of the cast? An all-star lineup, Julia is hotter than ever, Will, Oliver, and Kevin light up the stage in this thriller that will keep you gripping your seats. It's a refreshing sight to see a true thriller, with top notch professional actors. You won't regret seeing this 2 hour seat bender. -JL
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9/10
Early Bacon, W. Baldwin, J. Roberts & K. Sutherland Semi-Sci-Fi Suspense
semioticz19 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Five medical students (Kevin Bacon, David Labraccio; William Baldwin, Dr. Joe Hurley; Oliver Platt, Randy Steckle; Julia Roberts, Dr. Rachel Mannus; Kiefer Sutherland, Nelson) experiment with clandestine near death & afterlife experiences, (re)searching for medical & personal enlightenment. One by one, each medical student's heart is stopped, then revived.

Under temporary death spells each experiences bizarre visions, including forgotten childhood memories. Their flashbacks are like children's nightmares. The revived students are disturbed by remembering regretful acts they had committed or had done against them. As they experience afterlife, they bring real life experiences back into the present. As they continue to experiment, their remembrances dramatically intensify; so much so, some are physically overcome. Thus, they probe & transcend deeper into the death-afterlife experiences attempting to find a cure.

Even though the DVD was released in 2007, this motion picture was released in 1990. Therefore, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, Julia Roberts & Kiefer Sutherland were in the early stages of their adult acting careers. Besides the plot being extremely intriguing, the suspense building to a dramatic climax & the script being tight & convincing, all of the young actors make "Flatliners," what is now an all-star cult semi-sci-fi suspense. Who knew 17 years ago that the film careers of this young group of actors would skyrocket? I suspect that director Joel Schumacher did.
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9/10
Really neat film
RNMorton22 April 2003
Cocky medical students play chicken with process that simulates death, in attempt to get a (hopefully temporary) view of the afterlife. Certain plot twists and themes are a little off the mark, and the acting occasionally goes over the top. But the underlying message - about God's and others' forgiveness for our real or perceived sins - is positive and unique in cinema, and the cast is very very good. The last sequence between Julia Roberts and her father is so effectively done that, years after having seen it, I still get chills thinking about it. Highly recommended.
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7/10
I have this flashback of Wednesday Addams about to electrocute Pugsly while playing a game called "Is there a God?"
Frederick Smith18 May 2012
Every time I think about this film, I have this flashback of Wednesday Addams about to electrocute Pugsly while playing a game called "Is there a God?" The premise of the film is that one could view the afterlife and come back with the ability to report on their findings. The idea that a medical school would admit or retain anyone who had these tendencies, let alone allow a sizable amount of expensive equipment to go unaccounted for, is ridiculous. Given that, I have to say the film has merit, but it is certainly not the merit of a sound plot.

The acting, however, is superb, and every cast member should be applauded for their ability to rise to the occasion in this somewhat palatable "horror" film.

Kiefer's ability to maintain his character's persona is exceptional, breaking at just the right moment in the film.

Julia Roberts certainly gives us a performance rivaling her work in previous films, as well as adding an interesting perspective to the idea of guilt and redemption.

Kevin Bacon is the glue than binds this band together, with his ability to maintain the focus of the five on the problems they are facing.

Oliver Platt provides an interesting sort of comic relief, and William Baldwin brings his boyish demeanor into play with his particular sin, although you have to wonder how that character ever got into medical school.

The sets really give us the "horror" feeling, and you have to give Joel Schumacher his props for his camera angles and framing of the these spooky rooms and buildings.

Rated R for violence, sexual references and scenes, and language, definitely not one for the younger set. Wouldn't want to give anyone ideas. Not particularly collectible.
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10/10
Help me become a flatliner.
fleckey29925 July 2006
This film was awesome, the story line was fantastic and found that it kept me glued to my seat through out the whole film. I am a massive Kevin bacon fan and this was one of his best movie's the only other one better than this was Footloose. The casting on this film was excellent and all the actors play a important part in the film. Since watching this movie I have found myself wondering if there is anyone out there that would like to take part in such a experiment and if there is any doctors that would take part as well. Such a great film which makes you think about allot of things. I would love to find out whats after death. Sounds strange but I would love to become a flatliner.
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10/10
Very Academic And Made In A Very Good Year!!
dataconflossmoor9 October 2007
The bevy of box office big league stars is phenomenal in this movie!! William Baldwin, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon and Julia Roberts!! This movie was made in one of my favorite years too, 1990!! I am a Chicagoan, and the setting in Chicago was very identifiable and artistically expedited as well!!I liked this movie, and the agitation which motivated the climax in this picture was a powerful element to the plot which was utterly sensational!!

"Flatliners" centers around a group of disgruntled pre-med students who want to be flat lined as a way of attaining some sort of societal vindication!! When life does not make sense, it would appear very illogical to get curious about apocalyptic nightmares!! At the same time, once their desultory curiosity has gotten the better of them, there is no turning back!! The king of the hill, (so to speak) is the one who vehemently shouts: I WILL DO TWO MINUTES!! WHO ELSE IS GOING TO DO THAT!! ANYONE WANT TO TRY FOR TWO AND A HALF!! Ultimately, all of these newly arrived and very unwelcome recriminations now have an extremely ubiquitous disposition in these re pro-bate's lives!! The consummation to their justified or unjustified pathos required a full 360 degree perspective on the issues they were agonizing over!! Whatever purpose all of this reckless and academic chicanery serves, it is definitely an original approach for asserting your personality!! I liked this movie, 1990 was a good year for me too, things seemed to fall into place that year!! When I saw this movie some night in November during the year 1990, I was very glad that I did!!
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6/10
Pushing the boundaries of thrills seeking to the very limit
mjw23053 January 2007
Five talented young students at university hospital school of medicine decide to push the boundaries of life in the search for knowledge and the ultimate thrill. They take turns to die (Flatline) for as long as they can in an attempt to see what lies beyond death. It becomes somewhat of a competition between them to see who can stay dead the longest; but they soon discover that crossing over to the spirit world is not free of consequences.

Joel Schumacher directs this quite stylish thriller and with a very fine cast of young and talented actors - Keifer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt and William Baldwin; we have a pretty fresh well made thriller, that is certainly worthy of your attention.

6.5/10 it wasn't quite as good as i had been led to believe.
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6/10
Flat Flatliners
Brandt Sponseller14 March 2005
A medical student named Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland) hatches a plan to explore death by briefly killing himself in a controlled environment then having his friends bring him back to life minutes later. Four fellow students join in the plan, taking turns with their explorations, competing with one another to see who can stay "under" the longest. What will the consequences of this dangerous game be? Without a doubt, the premise of Flatliners is intriguing. I can't speak for the medical veracity of the idea--I'm sure it's ridiculous--but it doesn't need to be realistic to provide fodder for a good film. Unfortunately, this isn't a good film. It's not quite failure, but it's damn close. It's as if somewhere along the line the film was brought back from the dead, but with severe brain damage.

One of the primary problems that director Joel Schumacher does not overcome is that these actors just do not seem like medical students, and the setting just doesn't seem like a medical school. In addition to Sutherland, the other "students" are Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt. With the exception of Platt, the other four seem more like models who got lost on their way back from a Vogue shoot. Platt seems like an overacting fussbudget who got lost on his way to a Steven Spielberg set. Writer Peter Filardi gives them more model-like dialogue, except when they're flatly reciting the medical terms they've memorized.

The "school", for some bizarre reason, is an old church/monastery, filled with Gothic statuary and modern construction accoutrements, such as scaffolding and those thick, transparent plastic sheets they hang in doorways. It does look cool, but it's difficult to buy the set as a medical school.

That might not usually be a problem for me--I love absurdism, after all, but the plot seems to hinge on the verisimilitude of the characters and their setting. What we're left with are actors going through "medical student" ritual movements and speech as they work their way through a formulaic series of events. Formulaic because much of the film consists of the same scene over and over, our cast of pretty boys (and a beautiful girl) simply take turns around the chair of honor, a bit like they're square dancing. The first time, when Nelson goes "under", it may be pretty exciting, but by the fifth time, it's just more ritual--there is little suspense.

The genre listing claims that Flatliners is a combination of horror, thriller and sci-fi. None of those seem to fit the film very well, although superficially, it makes some sense. But the scenarios are really just drama heavily imbued with symbolism and metaphor. The "fantasy" elements are intriguing enough at that, but the gist of the film consists of characters having to adjust their karmic balances. They're trying to right various wrongs, or at least perceived wrongs, towards persons from their pasts. It's fairly overt; there isn't much subtext here. The karmic imbalance material is the best of the film, but in a case of life reflecting art, Schumacher has a karmic imbalance himself--there is far too much empty ritual in the film and not enough meaty material.
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8/10
Chilling, Eerie, & Good
view_and_review7 January 2005
Although Flatliners is 15 years old, tonight was my first time ever seeing it. I had heard about the movie Flatliners, but there was never a buzz about it to make me go out and rent it or make a point to see it period. Well, I caught it on one of the premium channels and I must say that it was very good.

This movie was about some brilliant young medical students deciding to explore death. They have figured out a way to cause a person to die briefly and bring him/her back to life. Besides the all-star cast, this movie had some serious bite to it. Just the very thought of exploring death is riveting enough, but I really thought the writer & director did an excellent job in giving a different yet hair raising view. This was no generic attempt to thrill, frighten, and make one's mind race... this was the real deal.

Instead of making it an empty, superficial, star-studded thriller, this movie had substance. A nail-biter, white knuckle, edge-of-the-seat, hard nose thriller. I give it an 8/10.
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1/10
Loved it in 1990; hated it on 2nd viewing (2001)
newcastleboy3 December 2001
Greetings All,

Isn't it amazing the power that films have on you after the 1st viewing ?

I was so delighted by the first viewing of this film, I couldn't stop talking about "Flatliners" to all my friends for weeks - mind you I was a very impressionable 18 year old back then and my taste in films have become a little more conservative since then.

Then somehow I forgot about this film until I saw the DVD in my local department store and remembering how great it was I thought "Right ! I'll pluck you off the shelf when they bring out the Special Edition".

Last week, I was overjoyed when my best friend invited me over to watch Flatliners on DVD. The expectation was that I would love this film even more on 2nd viewing.. How wrong I was !

Verdict: after 11 years my view on this film had changed from a very scary 1st class movie to total junk which overplays on the religious and supernatural side of things ratherly superficially.

I have never been a big fan of Julia Roberts' acting (excepting for Erin Brockeridge in which she deserved her Oscar) I think the problem with this film definitely lies with the director and a so so mediocre script. I left this film feeling it had no real substance or potential, and just a couple of scarey cheap thrills which weren't very well done at all. Not even the score by James-Newtown Howard, who I rather like as a film composer, could captivate and thrill me.

In 1990 I would have given this film 9.5 / 10; but in 2001 I'd be lucky to give it 2 / 10 at best.
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1/10
A medical school WITHOUT LIGHTS?
EYEboy30 November 1998
...And if that were the only problem with this overblown tripe, it would be forgivable. Factor in an embarrassing script, paper-thin characters, a ridiculously bad fit of somebody's idea of pop psychology onto a convoluted plot, and torpid, limp performances, and you've got a stinker, ladies and gentlemen. That Joel Schumacher continues to get work as a director amazes me.
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8/10
Back from the afterlife.
tamimarie22811 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Nelson is a medical professor who wants his four students to put him to death and then bring him back to life so that he can prove that there is an afterlife. So they do and soon enough all of the medical students want to know if there is life after death. The afterlife isn't about pearly gates and lights at the end of the tunnel but something more sinister.

Past ghosts come back to haunt them and surely this movie will haunt anyone. It has some pretty scary moments that could translate into real life and it makes people wonder somewhat about what happens when you die. It's a good movie to see when it's raining and you're feeling down. It's also a little weird.

See it with a haunted past.
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9/10
Excellent!
miken-326 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is great from start to finish about a group of med students that get together and literally kill each other by stopping their hearts and then revive themselves. They then research what happens from the "near death" experiences. As each one goes through the experience, they become haunted by their deepest fears that seem to materialize as reality. This ranges from dead kids with hockey sticks to dead fathers that seem to be upstairs.

The cast is first rate and Oliver Platt is hilarious in one of the best roles of his career. I am not a big Keifer Sutherland fan but even he does an excellent job. This is a movie that I can watch over and over!
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7/10
Ah yes...the 80's!
frankenbenz6 December 2008
Nostalgia isn't always the best reason to watch a movie. More often than not, the movies you loved as a kid will disappoint you as an adult. While there are exceptions to this rule, it's hard to justify owning a DVD of Krull, regardless of how many insightful the director's commentary may be. But stay sharp Gen X/Y'ers, because the dozens of disappointments dominating your trip down memory lane, might stop you from stumbling across one worth revisiting.

One surprise film worth another look is Joel Schumacher's Flatliners, the supernatural thriller starring 80's popcorn heavyweights Keifer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts and Billy Baldwin. You would think that a stew comprised of this cast, the flamboyant flair of Schumacher and the über slick eye of cinematographer Jan De Bont would result in something sickeningly stodgy, but calories aside... Flatliners ain't half bad. Even though it's production design is inexplicably over-the-top and the photography is achingly over- stylized (replete with neon soaked streets spewing endless billows of steam), Flatliners still manages to be an effectively dark and compelling thriller. If there's an explanation why Flatliners was forgotten, it might be because 1990 saw the release of another, far superior, supernatural thriller: Jacob's Ladder.

Had Flatliners been released a year or two after Jacob's Ladder, it's likely Schumacher's flashy thriller would have been dismissed as a toned down, commercialized rip-off of Adrian Lyne's nightmarish masterpiece. But with these films being released in the same year, Flatliners enjoyed a different fate, tripling JL's take at the box office despite being a watered down version of a similar premise. The passage of time hasn't been as kind to Flatliners, it has been lost atop a dated heap of throwaway 80's Brat Pack dreck, while JL has cemented its reputation as a timeless classic. Fates aside, JL is seamlessly terrifying and it manages to keep audiences guessing right up until the last frame, whereas Flatliners falls victim to over- simplification and Hollywood conveniences that drag down the final act into a predictably tidy denouement. Comparisons between the two movies is unfair, and ultimately overlooks Flatliners ability to represent the 80's at its quintessential best. Released at the end of a decade of shallow excess, Flatliners will always be dated by its hairstyles and clothing styles, but in fairness, it should also be remembered as a well executed movie at (or at least near) the top of its particular heap of dreck. For intents and purposes, it's an entertaining walk down memory lane.
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Movie is about living not dying, giving and receiving forgiveness
mreby13 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Fair warning- this review will contain spoilers.... Each of the characters who flatline and come back are haunted, not by real or imagined "ghosts" from their past, but rather by guilt. How each deals with it is unique and fascinating. David, who cruelly bullied a girl from his childhood, finds peace by personally seeking her out and saying he was sorry. She initially denies remembering the taunts but it becomes clear that in fact she does and his apology and her acceptance of it is important for both of them. Her scars were on the inside and though unseen they were painful and unhealed even though her physical body had grown up and "moved on". Joe, the one who videotaped women in his life without them knowing, does have a reckoning of sorts but different from the others. Other reviewers may claim that the movies fails in part because Joe didn't apologize for or properly address his guilts from the past but I disagree. The fact that he loses his fiancé when she discovers his tape collection gave an example of what happens when we do wrong to others and fail to make things right. Nelson was haunted by guilt for his role in the accidental death of a boy he was taunting in his childhood. He wrongly assumed he had paid his debt by going to reform school. But that was his "punishment" which is different from saying sorry to those we have done wrong to. Unlike David he couldn't go and apologize to Billy, if fact he keeps running from his past and eventually wishes he was dead himself and finally says sorry just before he would have died permanently while flatlining and then comes back to the living. Rachel is visited by her dead father, but while she feels guilt, her case is different from the others in that she truly did not do anything to deserve her guilt. Her guilt was placed on her by blame placed on her by her mom over her dad's death. But she was a child when her dad died and Rachel understandably couldn't work through that. Instead of her apologizing to her dad she dealt with her guilt by forcing herself to visit her dad and see him at his moment of shame that he felt for letting her down. But in this case it was actually her dad who said he was sorry- sorry for letting her down, sorry for his daughter suffering with guilt that never was hers to bear. Her acceptance of his apology and showing him that she still loved him as her father allowed her to finally release the pain that she carried. I'm not a film student or anything, can't speak with knowledge on lighting and steam effects and all that. All I can say is the hair stood up on the back of my neck at points in the movie so I think the director did a good job with his cast and crew. It was a good story and one I saw back in the 90's on cable and then late last night again for the first time in at least, what, 15 years? I appreciate more now the true forgiveness message of the film.
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8/10
Great Premise That Becomes Predictable And Formulaic
Desertman8426 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Despite its occasional lapses into silly self-consciousness, Flatliners is one of the most intriguing and well-constructed supernatural thrillers of the 1990s.It is a thriller that features Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt as medical students using physical science in an attempt to find out if there's anything out there beyond death by conducting clandestine experiments with near-death experiences. It is written by Peter Filardi and it is directed by Joel Schumacher.

A group of brilliant medical students decide to literally play with life and death. They put themselves in suspended animation, electronically inducing a near-deathlike state and then pulling out of it at the last possible moment. Things get hairy when one of the students becomes obsessed with the notion of really dying, the better to experience the Afterlife before being revived--if he can be revived.

The film has a great premise that had the potential to be really interesting.Unfortunately,it falls flat as it fell into a series of clichés and formulaic elements that have been used in other movies.The cast obviously had the talent to be brilliant but unfortunately,they were never fully capitalized upon.
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