In the first Fresh Films of the quarter, David Gordon, Marcus Galeano, and Elliot Kronsberg flatline over Flatliners. Recommendation: don’t bother checking this flick out. Transcript below.
David Gordon: Welcome to Fresh Films. This is a podcast dedicated to turning people on to new movies that are “fresh” in theatres right now. My name is David Gordon, and with me we have…
Marcus Galeano: Marcus Galeano.
Elliot Kronsberg: Elliot Kronsberg.
David: And this is a podcast hosted by North by Northwestern. Okay guys, so what did we see this week?
Marcus: We saw Flatliners, directed by the guy who made the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and written by the guy who wrote Source Code.
David: I heard those were good. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for Flatliners, am I right?
Marcus: Ooh boy.
David: So, who wants to give a synopsis of Flatliners?
Elliot: Why don’t you give a synopsis, David?
David: Sure, I’ll give a synopsis of Flatliners. So, Flatliners is about five medical students who try to experience the afterlife by stopping and starting their hearts and spooky things happen once they start to look into the afterlife.
Marcus: They sorta start trying to study the brain activity of what happens when someone – for lack of a better word – “flatlines.”
Elliot: But then they realize that once they “flatline,” it kind of rewires their brain and they get like…
David: Super powers!
Marcus: Oh God.
Elliot: So they just throw out the premise of studying brain activity and they just all want to get super powers.
Marcus: And it’s so, so wonderfully stupid. I loved it.
David: So, where should we begin with this very…
Marcus: “I have a craving!”
Elliot: That’s actually something I wanted to mention. I think that was the peak – when one girl says to her fellow medical student that she has a craving, and… does he say “for ice cream?”
Marcus: For gelato.
David: And then she says, “No. For dick!”
Elliot: She doesn’t actually say that.
Marcus: No, I think I whispered that to you in the theatre. And it immediately cuts to them having sex.
Elliot: And they’re not just having sex in any old dorm room or apartment. No, this girl shares her apartment with her mother. And the mother’s like banging on the door yelling while they’re having sex. And it’s kind of hilarious.
David: That’s just one part of the weird writing decisions for the dialogue. It kind of borrows dialogue from the 1990 original, including one line of dialogue that’s “This is a good day to die.” So I believe, Elliot, you had something to say about that line.
Elliot: So, the 1990 movie begins with the sentence “It’s a good day to die.” Kiefer Sutherland says it before we know anything about the film. And he ends the film with “It was not a good day to die.” So, I guess whichever actor said it in this film – I can’t remember – he must have seen the original and thought like “Oh, we need to have ‘It’s a good day to die’ in this movie somewhere.” But he just kind of like threw it in there, and… there was no build-up. There was no… it didn’t even seem like it was written into the film.
David: It was in the middle of the film. So, not the beginning, nor the end, like in the original. And, and after this actor delivers this line from the original, all the other actors in the scene kind of like look at him and like smile and like try to not burst out laughing. And you can tell that this guy totally just ad-libbed it, yet this is a line that appears in the trailer as well as the final cut of the film.
Marcus: The ultimate irony, I think, is that that was probably like one of the most natural-sounding lines in the entire remake.
David: Because it was the only line that wasn’t written.
Marcus: Another thing I noticed about the writing of this - in regards to like characters previously knowing each other, they either just like hastily throw it all at you in an exposition dump like with Ellen Page and…
Elliot: Kiersey Clemons?
Marcus: Kiersey Clemons. That’s her name. They just kind of like throw it all at you. Or they just sort of never actually establish that they know each other or have like a previous relationship other than being in the same class.
David: Yeah, and characters kind of just appear. Because when Ellen Page undergoes her first quote-unquote “flatlining” experience, a group of people just end up running into the room. And that’s how they all get involved.
Marcus: Okay, it was Kiersey Clemons, Ellen Page, then what? The kind of douchey country club guy. I thought it was when they were having trouble trying to get Ellen Page up…
David: They call Diego Luna. Yeah.
Marcus: They call Diego Luna, and Diego Luna comes down and they get her up. But then Nina Dobrev comes down. Like where they hell did she come from?
Elliot: ‘Cause I think Nina Dobrev had been working with Diego Luna, and like she saw he left and she must have just followed him. And also, like she’s got a big crush on him so it’s…
Marcus: Well, yeah. That happens later.
David: Yeah. Let’s see, are there any positives in the film?
Marcus: Ellen…Ellen Page is trying. She’s really, really trying in this movie.
Elliot: I mean, Nina Dobrev and Diego Luna are just hot.
Marcus: That’s all…I don’t know. Kinda.
Elliot: They’ve kind of got some chemistry compared to like everyone else. Like I can almost believe them as like a couple. Like they’re trying. They’re like, “Oh, these people, like they seem to work together. Let’s write their characters having sex.”
Marcus: Well, they did the same thing with Kiersey Clemons and the one douchey country club guy.
Elliot: But that doesn’t work. Yeah, I mean that’s funny, but it doesn’t…
Marcus: But they also implied that the douchey country club guy and Ellen Page were also an item, so it’s like, which is…? You gotta pick one or else it feels unfulfilled.
David: Well, I think that was just them making out in the heat of the moment – Ellen Page and country club guy. Like it wasn’t actually a thing, you know? Yeah, also Kiefer Sutherland’s character has a very interesting moment after all of the friends find out Ellen Page is dead, he’s just like “Suck it up. Divide her tasks among yourselves. There’s no time for grieving in the workplace.” And then he kind of just hobbles off. And that’s a really topical moment.
Marcus: He’s got a cane in this movie, like he’s House or something. And he has the demeanor of House where he’s just always grumpy.
Elliot: I would have liked it if it was…they had gotten “super-diagnosing powers,” and then it was House. Like if it was House: the Movie, that would have been fun.
Marcus: House the: Movie… I’d watch House: the Movie.
David: I would have liked it if Kiefer Sutherland also had flatlined, and that’s why he’s a doctor. And he revealed it was like a corporate scheme that all doctors have to flatline in order to become doctors. And it’s like a trial all true doctors have to go through.
David: It’s like a secret society sort of thing. That would be wild. I just wrote a better movie than whoever wrote this movie
Marcus: It’s the Illuminati Hospitalier.
David: Exactly. Yes.
David: Okay, so now we’re going to move on to our Final Thoughts section. So, who would like to go first on final thoughts?
Elliot: I think David should go.
David: Okay. Okay, I’ll go first.
David: So, my final thoughts on Flatliners 2017. Wow, what a film. So, I went into this movie, seeing as it has a three percent on Rotten Tomatoes, I tried to…
Marcus: It’s that low?
David: It’s that low, yeah.
David: I love movies that have lower scores on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve given eights-out-of-tens and seven-out-of-tens to movies that have zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes, like TerrorVision from 1986. Yeah, but mostly more obscure things. And… anyway. So, moving on to this film. The cinematography… normally I can look at a movie - like It for example, it looked really, really nice. And that was enough to capture my interest and enjoyment. This movie, it’s shot very much “by the numbers” and there’s nothing really special or any interesting shots, unlike in the original where the camera’s constantly moving and roving – almost like a spirit itself. And that’s really interesting. However, this film, of course, does nothing of the sort and just checks boxes. You can almost see where the director said, “I want the camera here, here, and here. This is our coverage. That’s it.” And in terms of sound design, it’s very, very basic and very, very minimal, but not minimal in a positive way. Minimal in like nobody put thought into this, and here is the bland Blumhouse score, which goes along with every single horror movie made in the last two decades. Ah, what else? Oh, editing! Editing. A lot of scenes end abruptly and without resolution, and everything pretty much fails to resolve in a meaningful way. And, of course, the special effects don’t add to that because the CG appears to be completely out of this world and takes you out of the experience, if the terrible performances and editing did not already take you out of the experience. So let’s see, are there any positives to this film? I guess one positive I could say is that Ellen Page…her death early on was a nice twist. It’s the same twist that many films have attempted before, like Psycho and Wolf Creek 2 – both masterpieces within their genre. This film attempts to change up the formula of the original by killing off Ellen Page, but it really doesn’t do anything with that change-up. It has… All it does is remove character development, and then we get four undeveloped characters. So, in other words, it completely fails at its attempted bait-and-switch. Would I recommend this to anybody? The answer is “No.” I would not recommend this to anyone. Fans of the original will not like this because it is far inferior to the original. People who like horror movies won’t like this because it’s not spooky. People who like movies won’t like this because it’s a bad movie. That’s it. Moving on. Who wants to go next for final thoughts?
Marcus: I’ll go next. This is just something that kind of struck me as odd in the production side of it. In terms of like the scheme of Hollywood, they’re always trying to remake these movies that they know will get a big box office draw, even if it’s almost a guarantee that the movie will be inferior to the original, like Robocop and Ghost in the Shell and Psycho, of course. The Psycho remake is notoriously bad. But the thing is, like as I understand it, Flatliners [the original 1990 film] is – you two have seen it – and you seem to say it’s pretty good, but…
Elliot: I wouldn’t call it good.
Marcus: I sort of feel like that would be more of a risk from a Hollywood trying to cover your budget kind of thing. And I think a movie that’s…a movie like the original Flatliners – where, as I understand it, it has an interesting concept, but in some of its execution it’s maybe a bit flawed - is the kind of movie you should be remaking. But yeah, this movie’s a total shit show. Here’s the only audience I’d really recommend it to: If you got… If you have a couple of friends over – and I don’t condone consumption of alcohol if you’re underage. But if you’re over-age and you’re good and plastered, I’d say you’ll have fun with at least the first two acts of this movie. Other than that, I would not recommend it to anybody.
David: Now Elliot, what do you think?
Elliot: Yeah, I mean, I didn’t like the original Flatliners. I thought it was kind of quote-unquote lame because it relied on a lot of late-80s melodrama and the character motivations were stupid, to put it bluntly. But this movie, I thought, almost had better characters that were not used well at all. It’s like you were presented with characters that you could almost identify with if they were given any semblance of a just treatment. And the only possible saving grace would be that it was funny at times, the craving joke especially.
Marcus: “They’re on the same wavelength.”
Elliot: That was another one that…
Marcus: Oh, I lost it when they said that.
Elliot: But I mean, I guess I did not like this film either. It’s just another one of these Blumhouse-wannabes, this time produced by Peter Safran, who does a lot of the James Wan movies. Yeah, so that’s interesting. It was not a Blumhouse film. It was not a usual James Wan type film. I don’t know, I’ll probably remember the two worthwhile jokes for a while, and they’ll be part of conversations, inside jokes. But, for the rest of the film, I’ll probably quickly forget it. I wish that this was a better remake because I think, Flatliners, it deserved a better remake from the premise.
David: So, with that optimistic note, I will bid you adios.
Elliot: Bye. This has been Fresh Films from North by Northwestern Audio.
David: See you next week.