Directed by Joel Schumacher
Written by Peter Filardi
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, and Oliver Platt
Daring to face the question of life after death, a group of talented medical students bring themselves near death; their experiment begins to go awry.
Who hasn’t wondered what happens after death? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s not a popular method. In Joel Schumacher’s 1990 sleeper hit, a group of arrogant med students decide to answer that question themselves in the only way possible: controlled death. Led by the inspired student, Nelson (Sutherland), he takes the first pass. They meet in a building that’s in the process of renovation, away from discovery, and prep Nelson for his trip to the great beyond. He’s given nitrous to calm his nerves, then a cocktail of drugs designed to slow his nervous system. A defibrillator stops his barely beating heart and he flatlines.
Nelson dies on the table. His colleagues watch in nervous anticipation, eying the clock for their timely cue to bring him back. Scenes of rolling meadows and kids chasing kids pass through his vision. Darkness and trauma wait in the shadows for their moment in his afterlife experience. Just assume such an experiment comes with dire ramifications. Who can find out the secrets of the universe with no negative occurrences to deal with?
Nelson is visibly changed, as he should be. He claims he can even hear the hum of streetlights under the din of trains and mass transit. His fellow students fall in line and decide to try it for themselves. Each student goes under, each pushing for longer time in the void to find the answers. Each makes it back, and much like Nelson, they brought something back. Something that stalks their waking hours, invoking images of twenty year old memories in some cases. Over time, the group decides what must individually done to find absolution of sorts.
The film is remarkably acted and directed, with Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, and Julia Roberts taking top honors. The film takes place over Halloween, so bonus points in my book. The film overflows with horror imagery. The foggy graveyard, the isolated turn of the century buildings with plastic covering blowing in the wind; everything about this film was done well and it stands the test of time. Last night was the first time I’ve seen Flatliners since 1993 or so. Love it. Love everything about it. All these years later and I still won’t spoil it for you. What’s waiting for the students is personal, yet common. The film’s climax is race against time to save one of their own when atonement doesn’t come so easily. This is worth the purchase or rental. Don’t miss this 90’s classic.