90's Thriller Throwback: Flatliners
There are only 3 things I remember about Flatliners. 1, that it was a slick looking thriller, 2, that the cast was pretty great, and 3, that it was one of Schumacher's better films out of his vast and diverse filmography. Outside of that, I remember virtually nothing about this (or so I thought), even though I have seen it before, but it's literally been decades. Thankfully, it's currently available through a number of online streaming services and readily available, so let's dig in.
When a group of medical students, led by Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland), experiment with near death experiments to see what happens once you're clinically dead, their competitiveness drives them to push the boundaries by staying under longer. They soon realize that there comes a price, and dark secrets of their pasts come back to haunt them. But are they real? Or or they hallucinating?
The first thing I'll say is that Flatliners is undoubtedly Joel Schumacher's most stylish film to date. And this is coming from someone who loves his work with Lost Boys and Falling Down, but here, he's on a completely different level of slick and I can only assume a large portion of this is due to cinematographer legend Jan de Bont's (Die Hard, Basic Instinct, Black Rain and director of Speed) involvement. There was so much style in this that it acts as another character of the film. You're constantly immersed in the vivid colors that bathe each and every frame, and it's these bright colors that gives Flatliners a surreal quality. There are sequences that are awash in a single color, like for example, a sequence of Julia Roberts walking through her house while investigating a strange sound. The entire sequence is bathed in red, and there's no rhyme or reason for it, but it looks amazing. And that's what this film offers, a sort of kaleidoscope of colors and deeply rich in style, giving you a visual experience that will blow you away while simultaneously stimulate your senses.
As a thriller, Flatliners delivers the goods. It's visual eye candy certainly stimulates the senses, but the story keeps things moving at a solid pace courtesy of The Craft screenwriter Peter Filardi. It also helps that the cast is damn near impressive. This is like a dream-team of hot talented young actors in their prime, and if it wasn't for their specific involvement, I doubt the film would carry on all these years as well as it has. Flatliners is successful because of their talents. You imagine a film like this being made today with the actors we have and I can guarantee you that it won't hit the mark nearly as well as this one does, because the 90's were a different time, and an ensemble cast of talented young actors today just wouldn't or couldn't deliver as well.
This film works so well because it was made at just the right time. Schumacher smack in the middle of his creative streak, and the high point of his career, a knockout ensemble cast at the peak of their star-power, and some of the most alluring and impressive camera work to ever grace the genre, courtesy of 2 legends in the field. It really delivers on all fronts, and one of the best things about it is that it doesn't take it's time getting things started. Flatliners kicks into gear from it's very first frame and never lets up, resulting in a wholly satisfying thriller experience via the 90's. It's a surreal visual spectacle ripe with strong performances, style and most of all, substance. So strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.
How to see it:
Currently as of this posting it's available for FREE on the Crackle app, and also on Hulu Plus. You can rent it in HD on Amazon for $3.99 as well. If you need a physical copy, there's no shortage of avenues or formats to choose from. The Laserdisc, VHS, DVD and Blu Ray all come rather cheaply, and it's even included in a number of DVD collections.