The new film Flatliners will probably seem familiar to fans of '90s cinema. Back in 1990, there was another movie called Flatliners with the same premise about medical students who begin experimenting with death and experiencing frightening visions. The new film is a sort of remake while also being a sequel, but its trailers seem to indicate that it's more of a horror film than the original. So how scary is Flatliners? Is this film actually a horror movie or is it more of a thriller like the 1990 version?
While the new movie follows a very similar plot to the original, and shares its title, it's not technically a remake. It's actually a sequel set 28 years after the first film, and even features Kiefer Sutherland reprising his role as Nelson Wright. Wright was one of the students who took part in the original's death experiments — and things didn't go too great for him. The sequel sees him having ditched his old identity and living under a new name as a professor at the school where a new crop of students begin experimenting with being flatliners, which is the process of having their heart stopped for a period of time in a controlled environment and then revived, so they can experience death.
While being killed and brought back to life might sound like a blast (not really), the experiments have unexpected consequences. In the world of the film, when someone dies, they have a vision of what is essentially the worst thing they did in their life. These visions then continue to haunt the flatliners when they come back to the land of the living — possibly even manifesting themselves physically — with the potential to drive them insane and put them under ground for good.
While the premise of purposely dying and coming back to life probably won't scare most people, since that's not a thing that any sane person would actually do, everybody has a fear of dying. And since no one can say for sure what happens when we die, the idea the film puts forth — that atonement for your worst sin is what awaits you in the afterlife — is certainly a scary thought. Granted, the characters in the film likely have worse terrible deeds hidden in their pasts than most people, but everyone's got some kind of skeleton in their closet.
So Flatliners' premise certainly has some potential to scare on a philosophical level in that it may cause certain viewers to reflect on and worry about death; something that is guaranteed to happen to them eventually and from which there is no escape. But as for the film's pacing and execution, well, that's probably a different story. If it's like the first Flatliners, which seems likely, then the movie will be more of a thriller than an outright scarefest. The trailer does feature a couple of cheap jump scares, but this is probably more due to marketing strategy than the film being a traditional horror movie. Horror films are just about the only sure thing at today's box office, and movies that aren't anything close to horror films — like mother! — are still marketed as such in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.
Overall, Flatliners should play like a psychological thriller with a sci-fi element. The movie is unlikely to make you jump out of your seat or sleep with your lights on, but if you're the type of person who thinks and worries a lot about death, then the frightening depiction of the afterlife put forward in the film may stick with you after you watch it. But don't worry, it's not like those fears will manifest themselves physically... right?