Directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Starring Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland. USA 2017 109 mins Certificate: 15
Released on Blu-Ray and DVD by Sony on February 5th 2018.
The following is an edited transcript of the meeting between a prominent producer and a jobbing screenwriter at Sony Pictures in 2016. This exclusive exchange of ideas provides us with a unique insight into the creation of the 2017 version of FLATLINERS. The names have been changed for legal reasons.
Jeff Jefferson (Producer): Hey, thanks for coming at short notice Mike – I gotta job for you, but we need to work quick. Release date already set in stone. The studio needs a remake, they need it fast and their Remake Generator has reached the year 1990.
Mike Hunt (Screenwriter): 1990? Ah, fuck, I knew we’d run out of 80’s stuff eventually. What the hell is there to remake from 1990? KINDERGARTEN COP?!
Jeff: Forget it. They already done that. It was called THE PACIFIER.
Mike: PRETTY WOMAN?
Jeff: Already in development, except it’s now just called “Pretty” and it’s about a pre-op transsexual who falls in love with a disabled height-challenged lesbian. Jared Leto already tipped for the Best Actor Oscar.
Mike: Oh Christ…you’re not considering…DICK TRACY?!
Jeff: Not a chance. Hollywood’s really twitchy about the word “Dick” at the moment. Especially since the rumours that Dick Donner rubbed himself against Lee Remick chanting “Ave Satani” during the making of THE OMEN.
Mike: OK, I give up, what is it?
Mike: The Joel Schumacher movie? The one with those unlikeable med students that live in ridiculously lush apartments and spend the movie haunted by their past demons after staging their own near-death experiences? THAT movie?
Jeff: Yeah, that’s the one. The spooky flick that looked like a Meatloaf music video. It launched the careers of huge stars! Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon!!
Mike: Er, weren’t Kiefer and Kevin already well established by then? And surely Julia was launched by PRETTY WOMAN?
Jeff: Well…I guess…but it did bring William Baldwin and Oliver Platt into the A-game!
Mike: Sure…anyway, are you sure anyone actually remembers FLATLINERS?
Jeff: Yeah, our market research in Ohio tells us at least three housewives were freaked out back in the day! And the premise is timeless! These arrogant students set out for fame and fortune by stopping each other’s hearts and getting documented proof of the afterlife! But then they bring something scary back with them! You know horror is hot right now!
Mike: I get it, I get it…but hasn’t this subject been done to – forgive me- death already? Like, I’m sure I saw pretty much the same thing in a movie called THE LAZARUS EFFECT. And that other movie THE APPARITION?
Jeff: Nah, no one saw those movies. This one is a guaranteed hit…Michael Douglas is back on board as a producer and…and…we got Kiefer!!
Mike: Seriously? So, is he playing the same character or what?
Jeff: Yeah though we won’t say that outright because then it would technically be a sequel and we would have to do something complicated…like further the plot or something. We’ll keep it low key so that we can get away with just remaking the original. Oh, and we’ll give him a silver fox hairdo and a cane and the suggestion that he’s had a stroke, so he’s like a walking version of Professor Xavier or something. With hair. We’ll limit his screen time to five minutes just in case he accidentally brings some charisma to the picture.
Mike: Hmmm…these characters were so obnoxious in the first movie, isn’t this just gonna end up with another bunch of unlikely “students” doing ridiculously dangerous things and alienating the audience into yearning for their untimely deaths?
Jeff: Not at all!! We got interest from Ellen Page, she’s looking at the old Kiefer role, though her interest has its limits, so we’ll bump her off half way through to, you know, keep the audience on edge.
Mike: And I guess you gotta have…
Jeff: Yeah, don’t worry, we’re getting the ethnic bases covered. We’ve got a character tentatively named “Obligatory Underwritten Black Chick”. We already got Diego Luna’s people talking to him - you know since the whole Trump wall thing, we gotta get better roles for Mexicans. People will dig that. To bring some class, I got some British guy, James Norton – we’ll get him to do an American accent.
Mike: OK…but how are we gonna update it?
Jeff: Easy! We’ll keep more or less the same character back stories as before (dead sister issues, womaniser abandoning pregnant girlfriend, a patient killed by misjudgement, etc.) but we can have the characters take selfies!! I painted my cock last night and took a selfie for my girlfriend – it looked just like Pauly Shore! Oh, and we’ll have one of those self-filmed confessional moments like Heather in BLAIR WITCH! And…. I got it…the black girl was the ringleader of an awful social media humiliation thing! Everyone knows someone that caused someone to commit suicide after a Facebook post.
Mike: Will it be scary? Sounds pretty downbeat…all this gloomy pontification over death and shit.
Jeff: Of course, it will be scary! I bought a book on the Boulevard called “The A-Z of Cheap Jump Scares”, I know the guys that made those J-horror remakes used it as their Bible. And it won’t be depressing – we’ll have party montage scenes…and we can end it like some kind of supernatural GROUNDHOG DAY, where everyone learns their lesson, people say “I forgive you” to someone that ruined their life and everything gets wrapped up with a nice shiny bow.
Mike: Wait…does this have to be PG-13?
Jeff: Yeah, so no tits, one “fuck”, no blood and all the intensity of THE GHOST WHISPERER.
Mike: OK…any other conditions?
Jeff: Yeah. I’ve got two lines that have to be in there whatever happens: “It’s a good day to die” (Iconic). “Some lines should not be crossed.” (It was the old movie’s tagline!!). And…what about… “They should bottle flatlining”?! That’s a show-stopper!
Mike: Um, yeah…well, I’ve got to admit, it sounds promising. I’m back living with my mother and I’m wearing Sunday’s underpants. And the only thing I’ve written recently is a CHILDREN OF THE CORN sequel, so…. Who have you got in mind for directing it?
Jeff: You know the guy that made THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO?
Mike: Wow, fucking A! You got Fincher?! I’m in!!!
Jeff: No, you doofus! The guy that made the real one – you know, the one where they spoke Scandinavianish and you had to read the translation. The guy is Niels Arden Oplev! Big talent. Anyway, he can’t remember a shit about FLATLINERS, but he’s agreed to call it a cult movie classic on the DVD featurette…and I have an incriminating photograph of him and a shaved farm animal, so I don’t think he’ll turn us down.
Mike: Well, I guess it could be a big hit. Count me in.
Jeff: Mike! Welcome! You won’t regret it, buddy. Here’s one of my daughter’s unused Paw Patrol jotter pads, you can scribble the script in there.
Mike: Just one more thing … My wife designed a lot of those interchangeable Photoshopped horror movie posters featuring the floating heads of the cast over a generic image from the movie! Can we get her to do the one sheet?
Jeff: If it saves money having to get a real artist, then, fuck yeah!
SEVERAL MONTHS LATER - Typical Teenage Film goer #1: FLATLINERS? What’s that? Typical Teenage Film goer #2: Oh some kind of remake of THE LAZARUS EFFECT or something. Typical Teenage Film goer #1: “Wanna go and see IT again instead?
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