Julie and I watched the new Flatliners the other night, and she mentioned how it was different from the original. I had only seen parts of the original myself so we thought it might be fun to watch it, as part of our regular Cocktails and Classics lineup, and do a comparison. Thus, Cocktails and Classics Versus was born.
Both movies work on the same premise, but from two different theatrical styles, and almost two completely different genres. In the story a young, brilliant doctor (Sutherland/Page) wants to find out if they can discover what actually happens when you die. Can they get a reliable account of an after-death experience. They set up an experiment in which their friends, all med students, will help them stop their heart and after a couple minutes, bring them back. When they do, the experience also brings out a moment of unreconciled guilt for those who go through the process. They are ‘haunted’ by events or people in their past that they feel responsible for, or guilty about. Until they face that guilt and make up for it, the hauntings continue to get worse and worse. And, that’s about as much as these two movies have in common.
While the original is best described as a dark thriller, the remake tries to be a modern horror movie. The original has some parts that might be described as scary, but it’s not really trying to terrify you. While you get the sense that the students are haunted by their past, it’s no scarier than a movie like Silence of the Lambs. The remake, while not full-on horror, is certainly trying to be scary in parts. It goes so far as to kill off one of the characters before the rest figure out what’s going on and how they can stop the hauntings. I’m not sure why they chose to kill off a character in the remake, but other than that it follows the story beats of the original pretty closely.
The cast on both movies was good, but it’s hard to deny the star power of the original, especially in hindsight. Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt, and one of those Baldwins vs. a young cast of mostly unknowns except for Elliot Page and Diego Luna. There’s still time though, as the cast of the original were pretty young back then as well. Sutherland’s cameo in the remake was great, but it would have made the story more interesting if the remake had been a sequel. A group of young students stumbles on some old research and recreates the experiment. Sutherland reprises his character from the original and tries to warn them, but ultimately fails.
The remake did add more in the way of showing brain activity after death. The premise being that there’s something going on, even after we die, and they want to find out what it is. The original doesn’t get into that at all. The remake also added a sense that the people who come back from the other side are somehow more reckless, more carefree. They didn’t bet on how long they could stay under though, something that became a sort of competition among the original characters.
Both movies are well written, and it’s a good story. The original is benefitted by more gothic sets and a naturally darker tone. Its pacing is better and so is its use of suspense. The remake had more logical set pieces for the story though. Rather than performing medical procedures in an old cathedral, or museum exhibit, the new one has them in the basement of a hospital. The sets looked better in the original, but the remake just made more sense. That may be why it needed to rely more on some of the typical horror elements instead of just making you wonder what was creeping in the dark.
They’re both good. I prefer the original for its pacing, suspense, and cast. The remake has it’s own merits and would certainly appeal to people who prefer more modern horror movies. For us, we’ll take the original. In this case, it wins out when pitted against its younger cousin.