Death, the ultimate rush, is the target experience for a group of daring young medical students who break on through to the other side – and live to tell about it. A cautionary tale that ends along fairly traditional horror-sci-fi lines, Flatliners is a strikingly original, often brilliantly visualized film from director Joel Schumacher and writer Peter Filardi.
Premise is that daring doctor-in-training Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland) decides to make his mark on medicine by stopping his heart and brain (‘flatlining’, as the lack of vital signs produces a flat line on the EKG and EEG monitors) and then having himself brought back by the gifted medical students he recruits to help him. Initially angry and reluctant, the others end up totally seduced, vying with each other for the chance to go next by offering to flatline the longest.
Problem is, as Nelson discovers, that the curtain of death, once penetrated, doesn’t close behind you, and Nelson finds himself haunted by an aggressive demon from another world. Before he can bring himself to admit that his idea wasn’t such a good one, all the others but one have gone over.
Sutherland, as always, registers real presence and pulls off a wildly demanding role, but the remarkably gifted Julia Roberts is the film’s true grace note as the low-key, private and intensely focused Rachel.
1990: Nomination: Best Sound Effects Editing