Mini Reviews (October 2017)
Flatliners, Friend Request
Flatliners (October 16/17)
A mediocre remake of a mediocre film, Flatliners follows five impossibly bland medical students as they begin an experiment to determine what happens when we die. There’s little doubt that Flatliners opens with a fair degree of promise, as filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev delivers a pre-credits sequence that seems designed to flesh out one of the aforementioned students - with the scene providing the character with a relatively compelling reason to embark on such a risky endeavor. It doesn’t take long at all, unfortunately, for the movie to fall into the same trap as its underwhelming predecessor, as Flatliners suffers from a lack of momentum or purpose that’s compounded by an almost astonishing lack of sympathetic protagonists (ie there’s ultimately just nothing here to get invested in). The movie’s midsection fares especially poorly, to be sure, with scripter Ben Ripley delivering a virtually episodic narrative revolving around the heroes’ growing suspicion they’re being pursued by malevolent forces - and yet, despite Oplev's ongoing attempts at wringing suspense out of the perilous situation, Flatliners remains pitched at as forgettable and styleless a level as one could imagine. It is, in the end, clear that absolutely no attempt has been made to improve upon the original film’s various flaws, which is a shame, really, given the massive potential afforded by the movie’s seemingly can’t-miss setup.
Friend Request (October 24/17)
Instantly forgettable, Friend Request follows Alycia Debnam-Carey's Laura as she begins to experience strange happenings after a spooky classmate (Liesl Ahlers' Marina) kills herself and posts the suicide online. It’s clear that Friend Request is actually not too intolerable in its opening stretch, with the movie seemingly offering a riff on the “blank from hell” genre as said spooky classmate’s attachment to Laura grows more and more possessive. The familiarity of the narrative is, as a result, not quite as problematic as one might’ve anticipated, although it’s just as apparent that the movie begins its slow-but-steady descent into irrelevance once Marina offs herself - as the film segues into an increasingly tedious midsection detailing Laura's impossibly dull investigation into Marina's tragic past. (It’s hard to think of a horror-movie trope that has worn out its welcome to the degree that this one has.) Filmmaker Simon Verhoeven admittedly does a decent job of peppering the proceedings with creepy images (eg two boys with mutilated faces), but such positives are rendered moot by his flat-out baffling decision to play coy with most of the movie’s kill sequences (ie they generally transpire offscreen). The especially tedious final stretch certainly doesn’t do the movie any favors, and it is, unsurprisingly, impossible to care once everything has been revealed - with the end result an especially tepid flop that seems unlikely to appeal to either horror buffs or casual viewers.