Flatliners remake

Sony’s remake of Joel Schumacher’s 1990 psychological horror thriller Flatliners stumbled at the box office this past weekend, and limped its way from a 0% up to a 2% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s an abysmal score – even worse than The Emoji Movie – and it’s clear that the film’s premise and stars including Ellen Page, Diego LunaNina Dobrev, James Norton, and Kiersey Clemons just weren’t enough to convince audiences that this story was worth telling again.

Would an explicit reference to the original movie been enough to alter the general perception of the film? Probably not, but in a new interview, the remake’s director explains that he cut a moment that specifically tied Kiefer Sutherland‘s character to the events of the first movie because younger audiences were confused by it.

Sutherland said long ago that he’d be reprising his role in the new movie as an older version of Nelson Wright, a medical student who pioneered the concept of temporarily killing yourself so you can briefly experience the afterlife before being resuscitated. You can get a quick glimpse of him in this TV spot:

But as io9 points out, Sutherland’s character goes by the name Dr. Barry Wolfson in the remake. And while there was once a reference that indicated that Wolfson is just an alias that the real Nelson Wright is using, apparently that confused audiences so much that filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev had to cut it completely. He tells Collider:

“…There was a scene with Kiefer [Sutherland], where he told, it was in the very end of the film, and he told this long, strange story about a famous doctor, that had death as his Godfather. And he does it super well and it like two minutes long, and Diego [Luna] and Kiersey [Clemons] and James [Norton] are sitting there, as their characters, staring at him thinking ‘what the fuck is going on with him.’

And he kinda ends up saying you, ‘You can’t cheat death, and believe me, I know.’ Which… ‘Trust me, I know.’ Which was a scene that the older audience liked. Because, it was like, ‘Oh, he is, he has changed his name but he is Nelson from the old film.’ But the younger audience didn’t understand diddly-squat of that scene. They were like, ‘Why… What the hell is this guy talking about?’ So in the end, it slowed down the ending and I just decided that the younger audience, the new generation of ‘Flatliners’ is mainly who this film is for. And the older audience who can remember the old film, they would you know who Kiefer’s character is, maybe. It’s ambiguous but they’ll think that he is him anyhow and then that’s where it’ll have to live. But it still is a pretty great scene.”

Look, I get the idea that you don’t want to stop your movie in its tracks for a moment that its primary audience isn’t going to understand. But why would Oplev bring Sutherland back in the first place, and why would the studio use his cameo as a marketing tool? Cutting a scene like that seems like taking a firm step onto a slippery slope. I’m not going to put up much of a fight here because, well, because we’re talking about a freakin’ Flatliners remake that no one really cares about, but think about this mentality being applied to a film series you truly love. Not great, huh? See why this kind of thinking might become a problem? Here’s hoping it stays buried with this remake.

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