Horror Film Review: Flatliners (dir by Niels Arden Oplev)


Jeff and I are currently on a little road trip but we’re not going to let something like that prevent us from seeing the latest bad movies.

For instance, last night, we saw the remake of Flatliners at the AMC 8 in Ardmore, Oklahoma.  Ardmore is a lovely little town.  When I was six years old, my family briefly lived in Ardmore and I can still remember this deserted barn that was sitting right at the edge of our property.  My older sisters all told me that it was haunted and I can still remember sneaking over to the window in the middle of the night and staring at that dilapidated barn, searching for ghosts.  Even though I was only six at the time, it’s still an incredibly vivid memory and I still have dreams about that barn.  That’s the power of a good scare and that is exactly what’s missing from Flatliners.  This is seriously one of the most forgettable films that I’ve ever seen.

I did get a little excited when I discovered that the film co-starred Nina Dobrev.  Most people know her as Elena from The Vampire Diaries but, for me, she’ll always be Mia Jones on Degrassi.  (Mia was not only a high school student and a star on the spirit squad.  She was also: a single mother, a model, a drug addict, and J.T.’s girlfriend during the show’s sixth season.)  She’s one of many Canadians in the cast of Flatliners.  There’s also Ellen Page and Kiefer Sutherland.

That’s right, Kiefer Sutherland returns in the new version of Flatliners.  But don’t get too excited.  He’s not playing the same character.  If he had been playing the same character, this film would have been a lot more interesting and he could have told the new cast, “Your sins have returned in physical form … and they’re pissed off!”  Instead, he’s just playing a clueless doctor with really weird hair.  I think we’re just supposed to be impressed by the fact that he agreed to appear in the remake and I guess I would be if the first one was some sort of award-winning classic or something.  It’s not like the original Flatliners is the defining role of Kiefer Sutherland’s career.  Now, if they had gotten Oliver Platt to come back…

ANYWAY, it’s pretty much the same story all over again, just told with a lot less visual flair.  (Say what you will about Joel Schumacher as a director, he understood that the first Flatliners needed a lot of neon.)  This time, it’s Ellen Page who convinces her friends to let her die and then revive her after two minutes.  The remake does add an interesting wrinkle in that, when Page returns from being dead, she is now suddenly super smart and has total recall.  At the very least, this explains why all the rest of her friends are then so eager to try it out for themselves.  Even though it feels like a Limitless knock off, it’s still an interesting idea and I think that if the entire film had been about the students obsessively killing themselves and coming back, all in an effort to achieve some sort of Godhood, it would have made for an intriguing movie.

But that whole angle kind of gets abandoned.  Soon, it’s time for everyone’s sins to start showing up.  That means that Ellen page has to deal with her dead sister.  Nina Dobrev has to deal with a dead patient.  Another doctor has to deal with a girl she bullied.  The movie tries to make you wonder whether or not they’re just having hallucinations but why would a hallucination feel the need to sneak around a room while its target isn’t looking?

Plus, I have to wonder: there are real people out there who have been clinically dead, just to have been brought back to life.  Some of them have reported seeing the bright light and all the rest.  If you follow this movie’s logic, are they all now secretly smart and being chased around by their past sins?  If that’s the case then I’m looking forward to the sequel to Heaven Is For Real.

It’s a forgettable movie.  The first Flatliners had its own stupid charm but the remake just falls flat.

Back to School Part II #54: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (dir by Nicholas Stoller)


(For the past three weeks, Lisa Marie has been in the process of reviewing 56 back to school films!  She’s promised the rest of the TSL staff that this project will finally wrap up by the end of today, so that she can devote her time to helping to prepare the site for its annual October horrorthon!  Will she make it or will she fail, lose her administrator privileges, and end up writing listicles for Buzzfeed?  Keep reading the site to find out!)

neighbors2-sorority-rising

How many times can the same thing keep happening to the same people?

That’s a question that you may be tempted to ask yourself while watching Neighbors 2.  Neighbors 2 is, of course, a sequel to the original Neighbors.  In the first film, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne played Mac and Kelly Radner, a married couple who are struggling to deal with the fact that, as new parents, they are now officially adults.  When a crazy and wild fraternity moves in next door to them and refuses to tone down their partying ways, Mac and Kelly are forced to take matters into their own hands.  Occasionally hilarious mayhem ensues.

In Neighbors 2, Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne again play Mac and Kelly Radner, a married couple who are struggling to deal with the fact that, as parents who are awaiting the arrival of their 2nd child, they are now officially adults and may have to finally move into a more family friendly house in the suburbs.  When a crazy and wild fraternity sorority moves in next door to them and refuses to tone down their partying ways, Mac and Kelly are forced to take matters into their own hands.  Occasionally hilarious mayhem ensues.

Yeah, it’s all pretty familiar.  Not only are many of the same jokes from the first film repeated but they’re often repeated at that exact same spot in which they originally appeared.  To the film’s credit, it does occasionally acknowledge that it’s repeating itself, though it never quite reaches the self-aware heights of something like 22 Jump Street.  Even Zac Efron returns and, again, he is initially the Radner’s enemy before eventually becoming their ally.

That said, the familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing.  Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne both know how to get laughs, even when they’re telling the same joke that they told a year ago.  Zac Efron tends to try too hard whenever he has a dramatic role (like in The Paperboy, for instance) but he’s got a real talent for comedy.

Ultimately, though, the best thing that saves Neighbors 2 from just being a forgettable comedy sequel is the sorority.  As opposed to the first film’s creepy fraternity, the sorority in Neighbors 2 is partying for a cause greater than just hedonism.  Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz, finally getting to have fun in a movie) starts her independent sorority in response to being told that official sororities are not allowed to throw parties and, instead, can only attend misogynistic frat parties.  When Shelby and her sorority buy the house, it’s not just to make trouble.  It’s because they need a place where they can have a good time without feeling that they’re in constant danger from drunk and perverted frat boys.  A subtext of empowerment through partying runs through Neighbors 2 and it elevates the entire film.

Neighbors 2 is an entertaining film, even if it never leaves as much of an impression as you may hope.  (I have to admit that, whenever I try to list all the films that I’ve seen this year, Neighbors 2 is one of those that I often have to struggle to remember.)  That said, it’s not a terrible way to spend 97 minutes and it’ll make you laugh.  And, ultimately, that really is the most important thing when it comes to comedy.

As for the question of how often can the same thing happen to the same person…

Well, I guess we’ll have to wait for Neighbors 3 to get our answer!