Flatliners (1990): Steelbook Special Edition

| September 24, 2017

With the 2017 remake of Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners (1990) making its way to theaters this coming Friday, I say what better time than now to revisit the original? Mill Creek Entertainment clearly knew folks like me would be thinking that very same thing when they decided to release a Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD combo pack of the film on September 26, 2017—three days before the remake hits theaters. For this release, Mill Creek partnered with Steelbook to create packaging that’s ultimately a beautiful tribute to the film, drawing inspiration from the film’s religious imagery in the creation of the Steelbook’s exterior artwork.

While I’ve always found myself wavering between really liking and simply enjoying Flatliners, I’ve been drawn to the film time and time again as a result of the concept of the piece, so it was perhaps inevitable that it would one day receive a remake. In Flatliners, a group of medical students try to find out what awaits mankind after death by taking turns killing and reviving each other. What they find is that there may be no God or Heaven or anything pleasant waiting for us on the other side. And they are haunted by the sins of their past as a result.

The cast also features an incredible array of talent including Keifer Sutherland alongside Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt and William Baldwin, all delivering some deliciously melodramatic performances (particular Bacon!). Unfortunately, Flatliners tends to be a bit too heavy-handed and thematically obvious for my tastes. And any levity in the script, much of which is placed in the hands of Oliver Platt as the pseudo-comic relief, gets lost amidst the pervasive, incessant brooding infecting every element from the lighting and Jan de Bont’s cinematography to the overall production design. It’s all so melodramatic, in fact, that it often proves downright unintentionally hilarious, as when the characters’ hair can be seen blowing in wind indoors during the climax.

This is perhaps the fifth or sixth time I’ve sat through Flatliners, always hoping to like it more and feeling that somehow I should. I just can’t get over the feeling that the film should be brighter and less oppressively dour in its opening moments… and then get progressively gloomier as their sins come back to haunt them. Instead, it starts out gloomy and stays gloomy.

As a result, I find I have to be in just the right mood to tackle Flatliners. And the fact that I keep returning to it even after all these years a great deal about its overall appeal. Granted, the fact that it was remade probably says more, but all I can do is speak to my personal experience of that original film at this point.

From what I can tell working my way through the film as presented in this Steelbook Special Edition, the transfer on this particular Blu-ray of Flatliners is likely the same as that on Mill Creek’s previous, non-Steelbook Blu-ray release. While the transfer is overall very clean, it does lack a certain sharpness I expect out of a solid Blu-ray and it does seem to have been cleaned up with a bit of DNR—the original elements’ grain structure is still apparent in many places, only I’d wager it should be richer given that this is a film from 1990. Even still, if you’re a fan of the original or you check out the remake this weekend and find yourself keen on checking out the source material, Mill Creek’s Blu-ray + DVD Steelbook Special Edition is an overall attractive set to add to your collection.

For more information on this release, visit:  http://www.millcreekent.com/flatliners-special-edition-bd-dvd.html

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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