Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Written by: Peter Filardi
Starring:  Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, William Baldwin
Year: 1990
Country: USA
Running time: 115mins
BBFC Classification: 15

After megahit and bonafide classic The Lost Boys, director Joel Schumacher would dive back into the horror genre (though could be argued this is more of a sci-fi thriller!) with the excellent Flatliners. While not reaching the heady heights of adoration his vampire take has, Flatliners is nevertheless another brilliant genre piece that deserves much more love than its reputation suggests. Following five talented (not to mention cocky!) med students (Sutherland, Roberts, Bacon, Platt, Baldwin) who decide to dice with death by letting each other die and then resuscitate one another in order to get a glimpse at what awaits them in the afterlife, things (non-surprisingly) go wrong with each of them bringing something back from death: namely a sin form their past that now wants vengeance. Soon the young would be doctors are in over their heads as the sins of their pasts literally come back to haunt them.

Much more than a Brat Pack horror flick, Flatliners is a well-constructed and beautiful to look at thriller that dabbles in notions of death and righting wrongs. While the initial premise of somewhat conceited/know-it-all med students thinking they can cheat death is maybe not the most enticing, the young cast of future Hollywood heavyweights infuse their characters with personality and emotional arcs as the toll of what they have done soon begins to weigh on them. This is mainly a small ensemble piece, and the five principles are all great: apparently eager to do the film justice when making it. Schumacher reunites with his The Lost Boys antagonist Kiefer Sutherland as the delusions-of-grandeur leader of the pack, Nelson, but Sutherland even (eventually) renders him likable thanks to the emotional arc Nelson takes once the stakes become too high. The young cast work well together sharing good chemistry and it’s refreshing to see them stick together to try and fix what they’ve done wrong.

Schumacher elicits great performances from his cast but also brings his unique visual flair (along with the help of Jan de Bont fresh off Black Rain and The Hunt for Red October) to bring stylish filmic flair to proceedings. Creating a thick gothic hyper-visualized atmosphere, Schumacher and his crew create a world where the young students seem to exist in their own (night-time) world of heightened reality as they experiment with life and death. This all adds to the fun and creativity of Flatliners as does the fact most of the events seem to take place in a scary almost medieval looking hospital that is anything but normal. Those unable to just go with the vibe of a film may poo poo this aspect (and would be missing out on all the fun!) but it all adds to create a visually stunning film (and puts a lot of modern films with their flat murky photography to shame!) with Jan de Bont’s cinematography probably never having been better. However, Schumacher maybe does overdo the dry ice, creating so many scenes featuring background steam and mist it puts the likes of Highlander to shame!

Perhaps a little dated but certainly ripe for reappraisal, Flatliners is just as fun and intense as it was when released just over 30 years ago. A heady mix of sci-fi, drama, and eye-popping visual inventiveness, the film holds up surprisingly well, is one of Schumacher’s best, looks absolutely stunning in this new Blu ray release, and is perfect pure pop pulp.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand new 4K restoration from the original negative, approved by director of photography Jan de Bont – the film looks incredible thanks to Arrow’s restoration. As de Bont points out in the special features, this new clean up really brings alive the gothic, almost dream like quality they were trying to achieve and the vivid colours really stand out. Likewise, the various sweeping panoramic shots look fantastic. Flatliners is a stunningly shot movie and this new restoration really amplifies the great cinematography and lighting it contains.
    • 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray™ presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
    • Lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 surround soundtracks
    • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
    • Brand new audio commentary by critics Bryan Reesman and Max Evry
    The Conquest of our Generation, a brand new video interview with screenwriter Peter Filardi
    Visions of Light, a brand new video interview with director of photography Jan de Bont and chief lighting technician Edward Ayer
    Hereafter, a brand new video interview with first assistant director John Kretchmer
    Restoration, a brand new video interview with production designer Eugenio Zanetti and art director Larry Lundy
    Atonement, a brand new video interview with composer James Newton Howard and orchestrator Chris Boardman
    Dressing for Character, a brand new interview with costume designer Susan Becker
    – since the above featurettes are short, sweet but very informative, will review them as a whole (rather than individually) to save repeating myself and, in fact, they work as a complete overview of the production of Flatliners. Broken up into the different major aspects of making the film and interviewing many of the key players, these excellent interviews offer a detailed look into the making of the film, especially the screenplay and the unique visual style the film is known for: offering fascinating anecdotes and insights into Flatliners’ genesis. Particularly informative are screenwriter Peter Filardi (who went on to pen another genre classic, The Craft) and director of photography Jan de Bont (who worked on everything from Die Hard, to Speed, to Twister) as both are articulate characters one could have spent much longer listening to. The other great aspect of these features is how everyone is so proud and enthusiastic (as they should be) about the film and especially its director Joel Schumacher (who unfortunately passed away before filming of these features). It’s great to hear them all talk about how great their experience with Schumacher was and how they all poured their hearts into making the flick. Everyone talks fondly of the young cast also (would have been great to hear from some of them!) and this comprehensive look into the making of the film is fascinating stuff.

    • Theatrical trailer – cool retro trailer for the film that sells it well and definitely made me want to see it back in the day!
    • Image gallery
    – nice mixture of stills from the film’s production.
    • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
    – not available at time of review.

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Amanda Reyes and Peter Tonguette – not available at time of review.

Flatliners - Arrow
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"To tell you the truth I don't think this is a brains kind of operation." Way of the Gun (2000)

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