Today’s a good day to die (of nostalgia) for those in ‘FLATLINERS’


Diego Luna, Ellen Page, Nina Dobrev, and James Norton in FLATLINERS. Courtesy of Sony Pictures.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

“Today’s a good day to die.”

Twenty-seven years later, we’ll see yet another group of arrogant medical school students find another good day to die. Director Niels Arden Oplev has modernized director Joel Schumacher’s 90’s classic FLATLINERS, a psychological thriller about the lure and moral consequences of their exploration into the afterlife. Their clandestine experiments awaken latent regrets and painful memories that return to haunt them in various, deeply personal ways. 

Take a look:

Even though the bone structure appears to be the same (what with original screenwriter Peter Filardi still earning a co-writing credit with new iteration writer Ben Ripley), the remake’s actors (Ellen Page, Diego Luna, James Norton, Nina Dobrev and Kiersey Clemons) won’t be playing the same characters – well, except for Kiefer Sutherland, who, according to IMDB, does make an appearance as Billy Mahoney’s bully/ group ringleader, “Nelson.”

From the trailer, set to Jane’s Addiction’s “Up The Beach,” we see a few hints at what trespasses each of the new crew will encounter in their deep dives to the dark side. It looks like Norton’s character, “James,” has regrets involving a baby. Page’s character “Courtney” is haunted by a kid in a red sweatshirt (one similarly as eye-catching as Billy Mahoney’s). Dobrev’s character “Marlo,” looks like is haunted by the dead body of an adult – perhaps a callback of sorts to the original?

Here’s the original’s trailer, which was equally vague as to what sins from each of the characters’ pasts would be dredged back to life:

Listen, I have a ton of reverence for the Schumacher iteration. It’s been maybe a decade since last seeing it (on one of the HD cable channels). Back in the day, I remember I wore out my VHS copy of it when it was released. It was scary, compelling and well-composed. That said, it was more than a little sexist in the way it treated Julia Roberts’ daddy issue-suffering character “Rachel,” while simultaneously, trying to be woke to the misogynist treatment of women by William Baldwin’s character “Joe.”

Schumacher, who had an eye for production design, placed his characters in visually appealing spaces, ones that occasionally seemed heightened/ over-dressed for its Chicago setting. The grandiose, decaying church (it’s a metaphor!) where the gang would conduct their experiments in the original at least had more visual appeal than what looks to be the boring, cement gray confines of this new version.

As the both of these films profess, “some lines should never be crossed.” I just hope that’s not applicable to the line the studios executives crossed when deciding to remake the property.

FLATLINERS opens on September 29.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.