Movies

Flatliners reboot amped up scares with jolt of realism

Flatliners reboot directed with hardy audience and modern technology in mind

Whatever your image of what lies beyond, there is a version of it immortalised on celluloid somewhere in Hollywood's canon of life-after-death movies.

The latest take on the hereafter is Flatliners, a reboot of Joel Schumacher's 1990 sci-fi psychological thriller with a young new cast and a master's degree in medical authenticity.

It opens here on Wednesday.

In Flatliners: A group of medical students, obsessed by the mystery of what lies beyond, embark on an audacious and dangerous experiment.

Stopping their hearts for short periods, each triggers near-death experiences as their colleagues monitor their brain activity to see if they can find any proof of the afterlife.

A cast of established talent and rising stars replace the original ensemble led by Kiefer Sutherland, who gets a sizeable cameo this time around.

Led by Ellen Page, the new Flatliners co-stars Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton and Kiersey Clemons. Co-produced by Hollywood veteran Michael Douglas, a producer on the original, it also turns up the dial on the psychological scares.

Its Danish director Niels Arden Oplev, who made 2009's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, said the reboot is a metaphor for the American culture's obsession with getting ahead.

Oplev's characters discover that having flatlined, they not only experience what the afterlife might be like but also come back with enhanced abilities.

"The competition to carve out a career and job for yourself for young people today is so much harder and so much more crazy than 27 years ago. And young kids today, they take all kinds of crap to study 12 hours, to stay awake," Oplev said.

"They all have this desire to take a pill to shortcut to greatness. And suddenly you realise that was a lot of fun, that was great, now there is a bill to pay that I did not foresee coming."

The bill in Flatliners is steep - as the characters experience death and resurrection, they are forced by horrific supernatural visitations to confront past actions they deeply regret.

Science has advanced dramatically over the last quarter century, and Oplev worked with medical experts to ground the scary thrills and spills in modern technology.

He brought on a medical consultant and her network of nurses, radiologists and neurosurgeons to ensure that the action was as accurate as possible.

Every diagnosis and prescription had to be authentic, while the actors were shown how to give injections the way a real physician would.

Despite what Hollywood shows, you cannot actually shock someone who is flatlining back to life without first getting a heartbeat, said Somers.

Even those ubiquitous paddles are not used any more, but they were kept in the movie because they look more dramatic than glued-on pads.

Another difference between Oplev's film and Schumacher's is the intensity of the psychological horror, which has been jacked up.

"The film language, especially within scary films, has changed a lot in 27 years. The audience expects more than the audience of 1990," Oplev said.

- AFP

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