Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts
Tag line: "Some lines shouldn't be crossed"
Trivia: Hope Davis's film debut
Doctor-in-training Nelson Wright (Kiefer Sutherland) is about to answer the age-old question of whether or not there’s life after death. How is he going to do this? By stopping his heart for 60 seconds, at which point he’ll be legally dead. Once a minute has elapsed, his colleagues: David Lobraccio (Kevin Bacon), Rachel Mannis (Julia Roberts), Joe Hurley (William Baldwin) and Steckley (Oliver Platt), will then revive him. Sure enough, the experiment is a success, and Nelson has a near-death experience that changes his entire outlook on life. It isn’t long before the others start clamoring to take their turn, each willing to “stay dead” longer than the person who went before them. But what Nelson didn’t tell his friends is someone, or something, followed him back from the afterlife, and is now haunting him on a daily basis. Will the same thing happen to the others?
Directed by Joel Schumacher, Flatliners is both a journey of discovery and a straight-up tale of horror. By way of a series of rapid-fire montages, we follow each of the participants on their trip into the unknown, and while the majority of what they see on the “other side” is quite beautiful (flying high above meadows and snow-swept mountains), they also encounter a few things that aren’t so appealing. Nelson’s out-of-body experience concludes with him meeting a young boy (Joshua Rudoy), who, as it turns out, was someone from his past. A day or so after the experiment, this boy shows up again, only this time he’s plenty pissed off, beating the hell out of Nelson before finally disappearing. From there on out, Nelson does everything he can to avoid his unwanted visitor, yet continues to encounter him, and usually when he least expects it. The others have similar experiences following their flirtations with death, yet none are as violent as Nelson’s.
In the end, Flatliners is more a horror film than a philosophical piece, stopping short of answering the question of what happens when we die to instead try and frighten us with ghostly visitations and the occasional jump scare. And while Flatliners is, indeed, spooky at times, I would have liked to see it tackle the issue of life after death with a bit more vigor. I still recommend the movie, which is both stylish and well-acted, but in the end, I wanted more than I got.