Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee....

So I watched "Flatliners" a few days ago. Those of you born after the cold war have probably never heard of it. Quite successful when it was released in 1990, it promoted its then B-list stars into the heady stratosphere of B+.

Basically the movie is about how Kiefer Sutherland's character - a med student crazier than a jacuzzi full of weasels - ropes four of his fellow students into an illegal and highly dangerous experiment to see what happens when you clinically die and are then brought back to life.

Dr. Kiefer's accomplices are, in no particular order:

Julia Roberts, who plays a cute bespectacled doctor chick. She's kinda dark and has some massive daddy issues. Hummana hummana hummana.

One of the Baldwin Brothers. I think it's either Zeppo or Gummo. He plays a philandering jock who secretly videotapes his myriad sexual conquests, despite being happily engaged. Don't worry, by the end of the movie, he gets his come-uppance! Well, his fiancée finds the tapes and leaves him, and that seems to be it. To be honest, he doesn't seem all that upset.

Kevin "Jump back!" Bacon. The wild and unpredictable atheist who enjoys long walks in the park, clamping arterial bleeds, and leaving buildings by abseiling out of windows for no explained reason. And he has majestic hair. Truly, if a lion and an eagle had a human baby, it would have the type of hair that Mister Bacon sports in this film. Another thing I will say is that his presence, alongside the other big name stars, makes this movie an excellent focal node for playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Oh, and Oliver Platt shows up as well, but he doesn't do anything. Nothing at all. Diddly - as they say - squat.

Now, Dr. Kiefer's brilliant plan is to anesthetize himself, drop his body temperature down to 86 degrees using some sort of neon-powered magic blanket thingy, and then have the gang stop his heart. After 30 seconds, they bring his body back up to 98.6 and electro-shock him back to life. Thusly, he crosses over to the other side, and comes back with tales of adventure and intrigue from beyond the last frontier. Also: It's excellent training for his later career in 24, where he has had to fake his death by stopping his own heart nine times before breakfast.

Over the course of the movie, each of them undergoes the same procedure (except Oliver Platt who, as I said, doesn't do anything) for increasingly longer periods of time. Once under, they all have weird dream-like experiences and afterward have to confront demons from their past.

No no, don't get excited. They're inner demons, not the interesting kind.

But the main reason I wanted to talk about this film is because there is a massive gaping plot-hole that no-one on the internet seems to have spotted.

The gang are sure that the dream-like experiences they have after they are dead must be supernatural in origin. They couldn't be regular dreams or memories (Dr. Kiefer reasons) because once their hearts are stopped and they are clinically dead, the EEG shows no sign of brain activity.

Yet each period of "death" is immediately preceded by a period of "being anesthetized". They're unconscious for several minutes and then their hearts are stopped. Once they are revived and resuscitated, there could be no way for the subject to possibly tell that the images they saw were before or after their hearts were stopped.

There's quite a bit of weirdness in the film. For one, they seem to be going to med school in an art gallery or museum. Their anatomy lesson takes place in a circular gallery, in front of a large framed print of The Anatomy Lesson. That seems irresponsible to me; they'll get gore and bits of kidney on the paintings.

And although I have already mentioned this in passing, I feel it warrants special attention. After Kevin "Jump Back!" Bacon is suspended from school in one of the opening scenes, he leaves the school (or his apartment) via a third-floor window and abseil rig. He's actually wearing one of those mountaineering rope-climbing harness thingies on his waist. Why he does this is just not explained at all, and Kiefer's waiting quietly at the bottom of the rope to discuss the school's suspension policy and insurance liabilities as if Bacon was coming down an escalator. They could at least have editted in a shot of the building elevator with an "out of order" sign or something.

Or maybe it was a visual metaphor for his suspension. Ahahahahahahahahahah.

Get it? "Suspension"? That, loyal reader, is Comedy Gold right there.


  1. Caution : Storing weasels in a jacuzzi is a breach of the ISPCA's rules on the treatment of mammals in baths (or bathing apparatus) for the purpose of humor. You should be ashamed. :)

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