Flatliners (1990)

01/12/2018 07:24

Film: Flatliners

Year: 1990

Director: Joel Schumacher

Writer: Peter Filardi

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon and Julia Roberts



This film begins showing us a building that has Greek like architecture. We then see Kiefer Sutherland. He states that today is a good day to die.

We then see a man who is coming into a hospital room. He is bleeding out. A student, played by Kevin Bacon, saves him. He is then scolded by his teacher for what he did.

The film then shifts to a class. We have a competitive group of doctors in a room full of cadavers. There is William Baldwin. He is engaged to be married to Hope Davis, but she goes to a different school. Baldwin is a known lady killer. He propositions on Julia Roberts. She is a doctor who is obsessed with death and we learn that the reason behind this that she wants to ensure that there is a better place that people go to. There is also Oliver Platt and Sutherland in this class. He asks if Roberts will be helping him tonight and she states she will not. She doesn’t agree with the experiment he wants to conduct.

We then see Sutherland talking to Bacon who is tossing a bag from his second story window. He has been suspended for 4 weeks for what he did and he is leaving school. Sutherland tells him that he can’t do that, this is just a formality and that he is the best doctor there. Bacon tells him that he doesn’t want to see Sutherland die and he can’t help his experiment.

The experiment is that they are going to lower Sutherland’s temp down and then shock him into a flatline. They are going to allow him to stay that way for 30 seconds before bringing his temperature back up and getting his heart beating again. This will prevent brain damage and allow them to see if there is life after death. At first it is just Platt and Baldwin. Roberts then shows up and they start the experiment. Platt didn’t believe that they would go through with it, but Roberts is serious. Bacon then shows up as well and takes charge.

While he is dead, Sutherland sees boys running across a field and a dog is with them. Near the end we see one of the boys in a tree. They struggle a bit, but get Sutherland’s heart beating again. Right before he comes out of it though, he sees a dog with broke back legs and a boy standing between pillars. Sutherland is walking toward him. He can’t tell them what he saw. Roberts wants to go next, but she is outbid by Baldwin on how long he will stay under.

Sutherland ends up seeing the dog walking down the alley toward him. He then follows it later to where he finds this boy, who is played by Joshua Rudoy. The boy beats him up. Sutherland has to stitch his own face and then goes to help with the experiment. He lies about what happened to him. Baldwin stays under longer and he sees many images of the women he’s been with in the past. It is an even closer call to getting him back to life. He also struggles to tell them what he saw.

They go to a local diner afterward. Roberts wants to go next, but Bacon outbids her as well. Sutherland calls him out for not thinking what they saw was real, but Bacon is a known atheist. He is the control in the experiment and he thinks if he sees something, then it is just not them projecting.

Sutherland is attacked by this kid again, right before the experiment on Bacon. When Bacon goes under, his life flashes before his eyes and he goes to a subway entering a tunnel. He gets an image of a young girl, played by Kesha Reed. It is even harder to get his heart beating again and Sutherland seems to have lost grip with reality slightly. Bacon does wake up though.

Roberts also finally goes under. She sees images of her father returning from war when she was a girl. There is a moment where he is in the bathroom and the child version sees him. He flees and then kills himself. The problem starts to become, they see these things when they are awake now and they are going crazy.

Can they figure out how to stop these? What did they do in their past and why are they seeing it now? Will it drive them mad?

I had heard lots of things about this film, but had never seen it until now. I have heard that this is borderline horror, but definitely a classic. I have to agree with that. This film has an interesting concept that you have some of the best and brightest doctors. They think they can do everything. Bacon and Sutherland borderline on arrogance and confidence as well as the rest of the cast have the ambition for the next great discovery. I like that this questions religion and if there is an afterlife like heaven. There is the aspect of them playing God as well. I’m a big fan of the concept as well that in doing what they did, the sins of their past are haunting them. They have to face it in order to survive. The reveals of what they’ve done I thought was a good touch. I felt the ending was a tad bit convenient, but it doesn’t ruin the film for me at all.

The acting in this film is great. These actors were all up and comers at the time. Sutherland impressed me the most. We see his arrogance from the beginning and then he seems to lose his mind slightly. He has the worst thing to overcome and his character shows the most range of anyone. Roberts is interesting in that she is most concerned with what happens after death. There is an issue of misogyny that she has to almost beg to be the next one up. Bacon was really good in his role. Sutherland is the leader, but Bacon is the hero. Platt was also good as a supporting character. He also brings the humor.

There isn’t much in the way of effects for this film. It didn’t really need them. Everything that was looked to be practical that were used. The editing of the film I felt could have been tightened a bit. There was a stretch where I got a little bored. This didn’t hurt the film, but I lost interest. It still did build tension and the climax was a good payoff. The score of the film was good. It didn’t really stand out or hurt the film in my opinion. There was the use of classic music that I enjoyed.

Now with that said, I would recommend seeing this film. It has a deep story where it explores different sins. The concepts were good and I like how it plays out in the end. I did feel the ending was a little bit too happy, but it doesn’t ruin the film. The acting was very good and definitely a bright spot. There wasn’t much in the way of effects. The editing could have been tightened up, but it doesn’t ruin the film. It still builds the necessary tension with a good payoff. The score didn’t stand out either. This film is borderline horror, but I think it is a great film. I would recommend giving this a viewing if you are a horror fan or not.


My Rating: 9 out of 10