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Joel Schumacher
Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon
Writing Credits:
Peter Filardi

Five medical students experiment with "near death" experiences, until the dark consequences of past tragedies begin to jeopardize their lives.

Box Office:
$26 million.
Opening Weekend
$10,034,685 on 1319 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 7/22/2014

• None


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Flatliners [Blu-Ray] (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 12, 2021)

1990 became a big summer for dead people on movie screens. Most memorably, Ghost turned into a massive hit, one that ended up in second place for the year behind Home Alone.

While not as successful, Flatliners found a pretty decent audience as well. With a hot young cast, its $61 million US didn’t quite live up to expectations, but the movie still became a moderate success.

Medical school student Nelson Wright (Kiefer Sutherland) becomes obsessed with attempts to learn what happens after death. In that vein, he decides to conduct an experiment in which his classmates will cause him to die and then bring him back to life after one minute.

Though his peers view this as a one-way ticket to the morgue, they go along with it anyway, and it works. Nelson “flatlines” for 60 seconds and then returns with claims of visions from his childhood.

Though initially skeptical, this wins over his friends and they want to go through their own “flatline” experiences. As each one pushes the length of time they remain dead further and further, they risk real danger and other unforeseen consequences.

Though Michael Bay seems to remain the film buff’s go-to pick for the ultimate “style over substance” director, I think Joel Schumacher gives him a serious run for his money. I won’t pick a “winner” between the two, though I do wonder if Bay’s career could’ve existed without the way that Schumacher paved the way.

I tend to think less of Schumacher as a filmmaker because Bay rarely displayed delusions of cinematic grandeur. With only a few exceptions, Bay seems to know that he makes popcorn flicks without serious dramatic aspirations.

On the other hand, Schumacher created more than a few flicks that shot for more than just one-dimensional fun and thrills. In 1985, St. Elmo’s Fire allowed Schumacher to pursue “voice of a generation” material ala The Big Chill, but all Schumacher managed was a fluffy piece of soap opera nonsense.

Flatliners gets into even deeper territory – in theory, at least. In reality, Schumacher just makes yet another glossy tale without any substance.

This seems like a massive misfire, as the issues of Flatliners come with real potential. We could - and should – find a tale that explores its notions in a meaningful, thought-provoking manner.

But that wouldn’t fit the stylized Schumacher palette, so instead, we find a movie that usually feels like a long music video. Rather than give the movie the needed sense of realism Schumacher brings us a moody, atmospheric piece that never connects with the material.

Honestly, if Flatliners hadn’t hit screens less than a month after Ghost, you’d assume Schumacher attempted to emulate the latter. Flatliners offers a semi-dreamy feel that evokes the tone of Ghost enough to make comparisons inevitable.

Though I never much liked Ghost, I think its atmospheric choices work for it, but they seem less logical for Flatliners. The subject matter demands a grittier, darker take.

Schumacher art directs Flatliners to the umpteenth degree and places the movie in a strange Art Deco world that makes little sense within the movie world. Again, this story seems like something that requires a bracing, reality-based feel, whereas Schumacher instead stages the film in a manner similar to the horror fantasy of his 1987 hit The Lost Boys.

Flatliners does provide a pretty impressive cast. In addition to Sutherland, we find Julia Roberts hot on the huge success of Pretty Woman as well as Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt.

All try their best to bring some life to their underwritten characters and the frothy shenanigans, but they can’t do much to make it work. The actors emote, emote and emote some more, all in the service of a story that doesn’t really care about their roles.

That’s because Flatliners becomes just another superficial and insubstantial cog in the Schumacher machine. The man made some decent movies over his career, but Flatliners doesn’t turn into one of them.

The Disc Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C-/ Bonus F

Flatliners appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a blah image.

Sharpness seemed adequate and never better. While delineation never turned particularly soft, the movie also failed to produce expected clarity, so it remained lackluster in that regard.

No jaggies or moiré effects occurred, but I saw edge haloes, and the movie could feel a bit blocky at times. Print flaws didn’t overwhelm but they became a persistent distraction.

Colors veered toward a flat brown vibe that lacked vivacity. Some of this may stem from the original photography, as circa 1990 film stocks could lean that way, but I still image the movie should offer more vivid colors than what we got.

Blacks looked mushy, and shadows seemed somewhat murky. The image felt just watchable enough for a “C-“ but I felt tempted to toss it into “D” level.

Don’t expect much from the movie’s underwhelming Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Should a Blu-ray for a big studio release from 1990 come with lossy audio that lacks surround elements? Nope.

These factors ensured the mix would seem lackluster at its core, and nothing about the track overcame those issues. The soundfield offered decent stereo music and occasional movement across the front speakers, but the soundscape didn’t deliver much presence.

As noted, the absence of surround information didn’t make sense for a film from 1990. IMDB claims the movie came with a six-track mix for 70mm screenings, but even if that’s inaccurate, the flick should offer something broader than simple two-channel stereo.

Audio quality was dated but decent. Music showed acceptable range, and effects followed suit. The latter could come across as a little rough at times, but those elements remained reasonably accurate.

At times, speech felt a bit stiff, but the lines seemed intelligible and without edginess. Like the visuals, I thought the audio deserved a “C-“.

No extras appear on the disc. Heck, we don’t even get a menu that offers anything other than “PLAY” and the Blu-ray includes only three chapter stops.

Given the intense philosophical questions it raises, Flatlienrs could’ve been a rich, evocative look at life after death. Instead, director Joel Schumacher treated the material in the most superficial manner possible, a choice that turned the movie into a glossy, silly affair. The Blu-ray comes with subpar picture and audio and it lacks bonus features. This winds up as a weak release for a disappointing film.

Note that Sony put out their own Blu-ray of Flatliners in 2007, seven years before they farmed it out to Mill Creek. I wouldn’t feel surprised to learn that the 2014 Mill Creek release recycles the Sony picture transfer. However, the Sony version at least came with lossless 5.1 audio instead of the lossy 2.0 mix found here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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