Flatliners – USA, 1990 – reviews

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‘Some lines shouldn’t be crossed.’

Flatliners is a 1990 American science fiction psychological horror feature film directed by Joel Schumacher (The Phantom of the Opera; 8MM; The Lost Boys), produced by Michael Douglas and Rick Bieber, and written by Peter Filardi (Ricky 6; Salem’s Lot [2004]; The Craft).

The film was released theatrically on August 10, 1990, by Columbia Pictures.

The movie stars Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt, Kimberly Scott.

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Nelson convinces four of his medical school classmates — Joe Hurley, David Labraccio, Randall Steckle, and Rachel Manus — to help him discover what lies beyond death. Nelson flatlines for one minute before his classmates resuscitate him.

While “dead”, he experiences a sort of afterlife. He sees a vision of a boy he bullied as a child, Billy Mahoney. He merely tells his friends that he cannot describe what he saw, but something is there…

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Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The true star of Flatliners is the film’s haunting atmosphere. Mr. Schumacher, who started his career in fashion design, knows the full value of style. Like all good horror films, this one exists at a skewed angle to reality. But more than most, its resonance depends on the meeting of ordinary life with a slick, hyperreal aura (which owes a great deal to Eugenio Zanetti’s production design and Jan De Bont’s photography).” Caryn James, The New York Times

“Eventually the movie falls into a disappointing pattern, in which we’re supposed to hold our breath while yet another voyager balances between life and death. One resuscitation is suspenseful. Two are fine. More than two wears out their welcomes … Flatliners is an original, intelligent thriller, well-directed by Joel Schumacher. I only wish it had been restructured so we didn’t need to go through the same crisis so many times.” RogerEbert.com

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“Brain death is very much in evidence here, though perhaps not in quite the way the producers intended. What isn’t in evidence is the sort of overheated lunacy that made the William Hurt speed-freak trip movie Altered States (1980) such delectable trash. Flatliners is camp, but of a very low order. Schumacher is too intent on pandering to the youth market to take the mad risks and plunges that make for a scintillating bad movie.” Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

“Ranging from vivid to right over the edge, the performances are in keeping with the psychedelic rococo of the scenery and the woo-woo-wooing of the Outerspace Tabernacle Choir. Fans of the vampirical Lost Boys will be familiar with director Joel Schumacher’s luxuriantly loopy approach. The bloodsucking Peter Pans have become fibrillating death-trippers in this equally cautionary tale.” Rita Kempley, Washington Post

“What Filardi forgets to work out are some subplot elements. Each graduate character has their own particular issues and over time they have to confront it. That is except for one character that confronts it but is never directly stated whether it was fixed, it just disappears.” Nick the Nitpick, Break Down That Film Reviews

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” … dig on how this Brat Pack of Flatliners are portrayed like a bunch of maverick renegade jocks when it comes to wanting to flatline, challenging each other to go under longer and suffer brain death for two minutes in total. “Two minutes and twenty,” Julia Roberts counter offers. Somehow in the climax, Kiefer dies for ten minutes but is successfully brought back without too much brain damage.” Bullshit Movies

Cast and characters:

  • Kiefer Sutherland as Nelson Wright
  • Julia Roberts as Rachel Manus
  • Kevin Bacon as Dave Labraccio
  • William Baldwin as Joe Hurley
  • Oliver Platt as Randy Steckle
  • Kimberly Scott as Winnie Hicks
  • Joshua Rudoy as Billy Mahoney
  • Benjamin Mouton as Mr. Manus
  • Hope Davis as Anne Coldren
  • Patricia Belcher as Edna
  • Beth Grant as Housewife

Filming locations:

Loyola University, Chicago

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