Monday, July 11, 2022

FLATLINERS (1990) (Arrow Video 4K UHD Review)


Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: Region-Free
Duration: 114 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: Dolby Vision HDR10 2160p UHD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt

I caught this sci-fi thriller in in theaters in the Summer of 1990, having been drawn in by the TV spots and the inclusion of Keifer Sutherland - who I was a huge fan of from his turn in The Lost Boys  (1987) a few years earlier, at a certain age I thought was the coolest dude ever, and he was. I also recognized Kevin Bacon from White Water Summer (1987), so I was in right from the get-go. Now 33 years later watching tge sparling UHD I was sucked right back into the story such as it is - a group of medical students risking life and career to answer the 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 sheeting draped everywhere the setting has a string Gothic vibe that I find so appealing. The classrooms where the students dissect medical cadavers are so dark they appear lit by candles with the Mario Bava-esque colored lighting casting blue, green, gold, and red pallors on everything - whether it makes sense or not! Obviously director Joel Schumacher is going for a slightly surreal, nightmarish aesthetic, so abandon all sense of realism at the front gate. 

The all-star 90's cast is terrific, we have Sutherland as the arrogant God-complex afflicted genius and Julia Roberts (Mystic Pizza) who is obsessed with the afterlife following a childhood tragedy involving her father. Meanwhile, Kevin Bacon (Tremors) is a brilliant med student with uncanny knack of resuscitation, while Baldwin is a preppie who seems perfect on the surface, but is secretly a sex-obsessed voyeur - they all come together to discover once and for all if there is an afterlife, what happens when we die? Some are doing it for the acclaim, while others are doing it for more personal reasons. Well, everyone except for Oliver Platt's character, who is the literally the fifth wheel in this death-obsessed journey, he being the only one opting not to be induced into a medical death and then resusciatated, proving to be the annoying, often quite funny, voice of reason choosing to remain an observer while wondering just what-the-fuck is wrong with these other people?

Their experiments involve clandestinely meeting in an unused wing of the school where they take turns medically inducing their hearts to stop beating, waiting a few moments, and then (hopefully) being revived by the others, and reporting back on what they experienced during their "death". What most experience are nightmarish recountings of traumatic experiences and past aggressions which begin to haunt them, some seemingly carring over into the physical realm, which I found quite interesting and gorgeously lensed, stylistically its a sumptuous visual feast. 

While its more of a surreal Gothic medical nightmare than a true frightener I've always found this star-studded 90's entry to be quite entertaining, its got some inspired set pieces and design elements and a timeless life-after-death premise 

Audio/Video: Flatliners (1990) is brought back to life on region-free 4K Ultra HD from Arrow Video with a brand new 4K restoration from the original negative, approved by director of photography Jan de Bont. The source is in terrific shape, grain is organic and well-managed with plenty of lush detail in the close-ups. The Dolby Vision HDR color-grading sweetens the deal with vivid well-saturated primaries and deeper blacks that enhance contrast - easily the best this has looked on home video.

Audio comes by way of English DTS-HA MA 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround with optional English subtitles. The surround presentation is quite immersive, everything is crisp, clean, and well-balanced, and I dig the score quite a bit. The after-life sequences are where the surround mix really shines, presenting a heightened and intense swirl of score and activity that is rather dizzying. 
Arrow offer a ton of new extras, starting off with a new Audio commentary by critics Bryan Reesman and Max Evry - which I did not get an opportunity to partake of yet. I was able to dig into the new interviews though, and there's a bunch!  First up isthe new 19-min The Conquest of our Generation - Interview with screenwriter Peter Filardi in which explores the inspiration for the story, writing and selling the script, how hot the script was, the terrific cast, the way it went in production fast and was shooting within months. He slso touches on the way that Schumacher made it into his own thing, how the director saw it as a metaphor for AIDS, as where Filardi saw it as a piece about atonement. He speaks about the opportunity of being on-set and moments that stood out, like how the actors elevated the written page and infused the material with more than what was written. He also pays tribute to the late director. 

In the14-min Hereafter - Interview with first assistant director John Kretchmer he gets into his early years working in the theatre, breaking into film with craft services as a laborer before training as an a second assistant director which lead to being  AD on The In-Laws. He breaks down what an AD does, touching on the casting, praising the script, and shooting in Chicago, and the difficulty shooting the opening shot. Heaping praise on cinematographer Jan De Bont, all the various lenses and film stocks they shot in the picture, and the brilliant set design and creative lighting set-ups. 

 Restoration - Interview with production designer Eugenio Zanetti and art director Larry Lundy runs about 11-min, with the former discussing the timelessness of art and the gorgeous work they did on Flatliners, collaborating with Schumacher, and suggesting that the script gets a bit repetitive, offering his own opinion on what they could have changed/added. Lundy talks about the "penis lights" and obtaining a 26-foot sculpture used in the film. 

The 12-min Atonement - Interview with composer James Newton Howard and orchestrator Chris Boardman features Howard talking about the early part of his career as a studio musician before breaking into film scores, collaborating with Schumacher, his process and philosophy of composing, the process of demoing his compositions, writing for a choir for the first time for this film, and working on and motis. Boardman for his part talks about his work making composers scores sound good and what that entails, and Marty Page, father of the co-founder of Toto, conducting the orchestra. 

In the 6-min Dressing for Character - Interview with costume designer Susan Becker talks about beginning working with Schumacher on St. Elmo's Fire, breaking down each if the main characters design elements, and how they're personifies informed the wardrobe. Shr also gets into the Halloween costuming for the bonfire scene. 
Visions of Light - Interview with director of photography Jan de Bont and chief lighting technician Edward Ayer, an 18-min featurette with former speaking on how he came to lens the film, his excitement of the concept of the film, and the influence of Verhoeven's The Fourth Man on the look of the film, its visual style and the contributions of set designer Eugenio Zanetti  and all the departments. Ayer speaks about lighting the film, his history of working with De Bont and pointing out what he call Jan-isms. 
Extras are buttoned-up with a 2-mun full frame trailer and an image gallery. 

Special Features: 
- Brand 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
- Brand new audio commentary by critics Bryan Reesman and Max Evry
- The Conquest of our Generation, a brand new video interview with screenwriter Peter Filardi (19 min) 
- Visions of Light, a brand new video interview with director of photography Jan de Bont and chief lighting technician Edward Ayer (18 min) 
- Hereafter, a brand new video interview with first assistant director John Kretchmer (14 min)
- Restoration, a brand new video interview with production designer Eugenio Zanetti and art director Larry Lundy (11 min) 
- Atonement, a brand new video interview with composer James Newton Howard and orchestrator Chris Boardman (12 min) 
- Dressing for Character, a brand new interview with costume designer Susan Becker (6 min) 
- Theatrical trailer (1 min) 4×3
- Image gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Amanda Reyes and Peter Tonguette

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