Flatliners (1990) – The Arrow 4K Blu-ray Review

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Flatliners Arrow Video

“Today is a good day to die.”

Somewhere between darkness and light, old and new, the beginning and the end, Joel Schumacher brings us one of the most ethereal, visually stunning films of his career. The film immediately draws you in with its visual design, presenting an in-between world that has both a pre and post apocalyptic feel to it. Which is completely appropriate considering the film is all about finding the in-between of life and death. Leading a star studded young cast, Kiefer Sutherland commands the screen in his role as a junior student doctor, accompanied by Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt and William Baldwin (all of which bring the greatest hair styles ever committed to screen).

Obsessed with finding out what the mind experiences in death, the group of maverick young medical students sneak into their school at night, and find out what it’s like to go on the ultimate trip. Having worked out how to induce death and then revive someone, the group of friends all take it in turns to experience the exhilaration of moments between. Only it’s not everything it seems to be, as each one brings something back with them. Something they thought they had buried deep down.

Flatliners is a unique story and for the most part an utterly captivating film. Between the ambiguous plot and the incredibly gorgeous visual design, it’s a film that comes together brilliantly. The only real issue is that once the mystery of what is haunting the group of friends is revealed, it loses the  sense of wonder and mortality that draws you in up until this point, and the conclusion feels somewhat watered down compared to the build up. That being said, when the film looks this great and has a cast at the top of their game like this, it’s easy to overlook a rather straight forward third act.

Joel Schumacher and Jan De Bont do not get enough praise for their work on this film. It’s one of the most visually striking films ever made. The locations, set design and wardrobe are all meticulously presented in a way that adds even more character and mystery to the film as much as the cast and story line bring. And to see it all in glorious 4K, Arrow have done another stellar job when it comes to the restoration. It’s surprising that it’s taken so long for the film to be picked up for this treatment, as if there was ever a cult horror film deserving of the best presentation possible, Flatliners should be right at the top of the list.

Special features

There’s a wealth of interviews with various crew members, made specifically for this release, with highlights including an interview with cinematographer Jan De Bont, which is utterly riveting. As one of the films characters is its visual style, what better than to hear how that style was brought to the screen by the man himself? Fondly recollecting his work on the film and collaboration with the crew and Joel Schumacher.
An interview with writer Peter Filardi shows some insight into the films genesis and how Joel Schumacher interpreted the script and turned it into the film it became. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without an interview with the production designers, showing how some of the magnificent sets were brought to life. Insightful and humorous, it was great to see what goes into designing a film as visually striking as this one.

Other special features include an interview with the assistant director, John Kretchmer,  and composer James Newton Howard, as well as theatrical trailer, a neat but all too brief stills gallery, and audio commentary featuring critics Bryan Reesman & Max Evry.

Flatliners in 4K is an absolute treat, making an already visually striking movie look utterly stunning. The work that has gone into this presentation is fantastic and can once again be appreciated for just how incredible it looks.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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