When one thinks of Joel Schumacher as a director, there are a few movies that immediately spring to mind. Movies like The Lost Boys, St Elmo’s Fire, and Falling Down. Unfortunately, some of his other films also pop up (Batman Forever and Batman and Robin), but one movie I don’t hear enough about is Flatliners. Released in 1990, featuring an all-star cast of actors, Flatliners to me ranks as one of Schumacher’s best directorial works, ranking only second to The Lost Boys. When Arrow Video announced they were going to be releasing the film on 4K UHD, you can bet I was super excited to check it out. Now that the credits have rolled on the film, is the UHD worth plunking down your money? Read on to find out…
Flatliners deals with the question that haunts us all. Is there anything after we die? When our light goes out, does it stay out forever? In the world of Flatliners, a rather dystopian world if you ask me, five medical students look for answers the only way they know how: dying and then coming back. However, it seems death isn’t fields of flowers and half-naked women all the time; it’s a place where you go to confront your demons, your past mistakes, and the things that you have buried deep inside you. But what happens if you cut your time short and are brought back to life? A lot of spooky shit is what happens.
Flatliners is a gripping psychological horror film that builds solid characters (thanks in big part to a star-studded cast and great script by Peter Filardi) and never gets too preachy with its message. Instead, it leaves a lot up to interpretation as to what we think could potentially be out there after we die. The film begins with a fantastic opening score by James Newton Howard, leading to Kiefer Sutherland speaking the first line of the film that sets the tone for what you are about to see: “Today is a good day to die.” Yes, but it’s also a good day to watch a damn fine flick.
I grew up watching Flatliners on VHS, most likely recorded off The Movie Network if I remember correctly. I couldn’t remember much about the film, as it was many years since I last saw it (I feel so old now), so when I began to watch the UHD, it felt like I was seeing the film for the first time. I was a bit worried at first, as the film is relatively dark at times, with the top of the frame having some weird vignette happening, but that is a stylistic choice by the filmmakers, so I grew to accept it. The HDR helps make all the colours pop, and trust me, thanks to cinematography Jan de Bont, there is a load of colours in this movie. The afterlife scenes come alive with colour and detail like never before. One scene in particular, which sees Kiefer Sutherland’s character confronting something from his past in a back alley, is phenomenally colorful, with beautiful graffiti covering the walls. That scene alone is what sold me on how damn impressive this 4K UHD is from Arrow Video. Combine that with even film grain, no compression or chunkiness in sight, and you most definitely have one fantastic-looking release.
James Newton Howard’s great score will also sound even better thanks to lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0. I watched the film in 5.1 and was very pleased with the use of surround sound and the clean and clear dialogue. Not once did I find myself having to turn up the volume to hear anyone talking, nor did I have to quickly turn it down due to uneven volume.
Extra features mainly consist of interviews with various crew members on the film, such as writer Peter Filardi, cinematographer Jan de Bont and chief lighting technician Edward Ayer, composer James Newton Howard, production designer Eugenio Zanetti and art director Larry Lundy, and costume designer Susan Becker. Sadly, Schumacher passed away in 2020, and his absence is felt by everyone involved. Strangely enough, there are zero cast member interviews, not even archival ones. We do get a new commentary by critics Bryan Reesman and Max Evry. I started to watch it, but was quickly turned off by the poor attempts at humor near the beginning. Maybe when I’m bored I’ll give it another go. Rounding it all out is a theatrical trailer, image gallery, and an illustrated booklet included in the first pressing.
NEW 4K restoration from the original negative, approved by director of photography Jan de Bont
4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
Lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 surround soundtracks
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
NEW audio commentary by critics Bryan Reesman and Max Evry
NEW The Conquest of our Generation, a video interview with screenwriter Peter Filardi (1080p; 19:11)
NEW Visions of Light, a video interview with director of photography Jan de Bont and chief lighting technician Edward Ayer (1080p; 18:23)
NEW Hereafter, a video interview with first assistant director John Kretchmer (1080p; 14:22)
NEW Restoration, a video interview with production designer Eugenio Zanetti and art director Larry Lundy (1080p; 10:47)
NEW Atonement, a video interview with composer James Newton Howard and orchestrator Chris Boardman (1080p; 11:35)
NEW Dressing for Character, a interview with costume designer Susan Becker (1080p; 6:26)
Theatrical trailer (1080p; 1:27)
Image gallery (chapter breaks; 0:01)
NEW Reversible sleeve featuring original commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
NEW FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Amanda Reyes and Peter Tonguette
31 years later and I find myself rediscovering Flatliners all over again thanks to Arrow Video and their wonderful 4K UHD release. I love this movie so much (I’m going to crack open the novelization by Leonore Fleischer right after I finish this review), and this release is one to pick up. We may come away a bit disappointed with the lack of interviews with the cast, but the features we do get are very informative. Highly recommend plopping your dough down for this release. See you on the other side.