Friday, September 29, 2017

FLATLINERS (1990) (Special SteelBook® Edition Blu-ray Review)

2-Disc SteelBook® Special Edition 

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A/1
Duration: 114 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt

Synopsis: Arrogant med school student Nelson Wright (Kiefer Sutherland), convinces four of his medical school classmates — Joe Hurley (William Baldwin), Dave Labraccio (Kevin Bacon), Randy Steckle (Oliver Platt) and Rachel Manus (Julia Roberts) — to help him discover what lies beyond this mortal coil by medically inducing death. As Nelson drift into a sort of afterlife once his heart and brain activity seek he experiences a vision of a child he bullied to death years earlier. Once resuscitated he continues to experience vivid waking nightmares of Billy who not only haunts him but causes him bodily injury. Nelson does not share the strange experience  at first - other than to say there's something out there - and soon four of the five have flatlined and are experiencing they're own waking nightmares which seem to have followed them from the afterlife, 

I caught this sci-fi thriller in in theaters in the Summer of 1999, having been drawn in by the trailers and the inclusion of Keifer Sutherland who I was a huge fan of from his turn in The Lost Boys  (1987) and thought was the coolest dude ever. I also recognized Kevin Bacon from White Water Summer (1987), so I was in right away. Now 25 years later watching it I was sucked right back into the story such as it is - med students risking it all to answer that eternal question - is there an afterlife? 

Set at a strangely Gothic looking medical school with high vaulted ceiling and apparently undergoing a remodel - there's plastic and sheeting draped everywhere and it's one Hell of a drafty space. The classrooms where the students dissect medical cadavers are so dark they appear lit by candles with the Mario Bava-esque lighting casting a blue, green and red pallor on everything - whether it makes sense or not! Obviously director Joel Schumacher is going for a slightly surreal, nightmarish quality, so abandon all sense of realism at the front door, you can always count of Schumacher ti make a visually pleasing film, even if the story seem underdeveloped/fleshed out. 

The all-star 90's cast is quite good - we have Sutherland as the arrogant God-complex afflicted genius and Julia Roberts (Mystic Pizza) as a young woman obsessed with the afterlife following a childhood tragedy involving her father. Bacon is a doc with the an uncanny knack of resuscitation while Baldwin is a sex-obsessed voyeur, and each of them join in on discovering once and for all if there is an afterlife, some for fame, others notoriety and their own edification. Well, everyone except Platt who is the literally the fifth wheel in this death-obsessed journey, the only one opting not to "flatline", proving to be the annoying voice of reason choosing to remain an observer while wondering just what-the-fuck is wrong with these people?

My enjoyment of this one survived yet another revisit with the release of this Blu-ray. Sure, a lot of things that happen here are just unlikely and no reasonable person in the medical professional would probably cross these ethical lines, but this group does but just soaking it in on it's own terms this is probably my favorite post-The Lost Boys Schumacher movie - though those camp-drenched Batman entries are fun in a shit-movie sort of way. 

Flatliners is more a surreal medical nightmare than a true horror film but it's a fun 90's entry with some inspired sets and design elements and a strong star-studded cast. My one complaint would be that the film does not actually answer the question it sets up - is there an afterlife - or maybe it does and I just didn't care for the answer, either way it didn't stop me from enjoying it. 

Audio/Video: Flatliners (1990) arrives as 1 2-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo from Mill Creek Entertainment touting a new HD Transfer with "greater clarity and significant touch-ups throughout the film". Presented inthe original 2.35:1 OAR in 1080p HD with an AVC encode. To my eyes this is an certainly an improvement over their previous 2014 Blu-ray, the grain seems better managed, the image and colors are brighter, and true to the advertising the image does have better clarity and depth, they did good here with the new transfer, very pleasing. 

Despite the packaging indicating that the audio track is PCM 5.1 what we do get s a DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround track with optional English subtitles. The surround presentation is nicely immersive with the score coming through in the rear channels more so than anything else, but everything is crisp, clean, and well-balanced. Optional English Subtitles are provided. 

There are no extras on this release, I was sort hoping that MCE would have opted for new extras such as with their recent release of Shakes The Clown (1991) on Blu-ray, though I feel that was more of a director driven inclusion, but at least this one has a start-up menu as where the 2014 release did not - it features just a play and subtitles option. 

This is Mill Creek's first foray into the world of Steelbook as far as I can find, the 2-disc set features the 'creation of Adam' artwork with a clear plastic slip box cover. The plastic slip features the front cover credits and logo with the heart monitor blip design, the reverse side features a synopsis, credit, Blu-ray specifications, and thumbnail images from the film. The Steelbook itself features no text except for the logo on the spine. Opening up the steelbook you will find the 2-disc DVD/Blu-ray, plus an illustration on the inside of the Steelbook case that spreads across both sides. 

If you're a fan of this ethereal 90's thriller and crave desirable Steelbook packaging the new release from Mill Creek Entertainment is sure to satisfy, if you crave extras then this might be a flatline for you, but either way, this is the best looking Blu-ray of the film on home video right now, and it can be found for fairly cheap online. I hope it moves a bunch of units, because I'd like to see more Steelbooks coming from MCE - would love to see their Hammer and William Castle releases get a Steelbook upgrade.