Year 7, Day 286 - 10/13/15 - Movie #2,172
BEFORE: Well, I'm back from New York Comic-Con. I didn't really go anywhere, I stayed in New York, but since it took up 5 days of my time, nearly sun-up to sundown, it feels a bit like I was away. When you factor in the load-in, a lot of walking around, a lot of sitting in a booth, and then the load-out, I got enough of a workout that I'm now worn out. I feel like I need to sleep for three days straight, but I'm not going to get a chance to do that. Instead I allowed myself two nights just to relax and catch up on some TV, but I've got to get back to starting the Halloween chain, because there are just 19 days left in October, and I've got 19 films, so there's no more room for slacking off. OK, maybe one, because I think I can go one day into November and still be culturally appropriate - I'll explain on November 1.
It's also my wife's birthday today, so we're going out to dinner tomorrow and seeing a Broadway show on Friday, so maybe I'll take Friday off from movie-watching as well. It'll be a late night when we get back from the theatre.
Kiefer Sutherland carries over from "Pompeii" - I could have gone with "The Lost Boys", I suppose, but I don't have a copy of that film. Maybe next year. "Pompeii" is a good lead-in, because nearly everyone in that city died from volcano-related injuries, and my first few horror films are about death or death-like states. Later I'll get into gremlins, zombies, vampires and demons, and sort of a more general category about things invading our bodies, and not in a good way. Let the countdown to Halloween begin...
THE PLOT: Four medical students experiment on "near death" experiences that involve past tragedies until the dark consequences begin to jeopardize their lives.
AFTER: Well, if "Pompeii" was clearly pitched as "Titanic" meets "Braveheart", you can almost assume that this one was pitched as a revamp of "Frankenstein", only there are 5 young Dr. Frankensteins, and they all play the monster as well. In "Frankenstein", a doctor took dead bodies, spliced them together, added chemicals and electricity, and brought the dead back to life. In this film, 5 doctors allow themselves to die, then add chemicals and electricity (in the form of a defibrillator) to bring themselves back. The point of the experiment is slightly different, here these five brave souls are attempting to answer the eternal question over whether there is anything after death, hoping to experience it, come back, and remember what they've seen.
The trouble is, we don't know a lot about what happens when people die - those who've had near-death experiences, or who have been clinically dead for a period, tend to talk about seeing that long tunnel with the bright light at the end, but couldn't that just be a result of the brain or the optic nerve shutting down? People talk about their lives flashing before their eyes, or seeing deceased loved ones again, or experiencing a feeling of warmth, peace or acceptance - again, all possible side effects of the human brain getting ready to close up shop. Anything experienced during that period should perhaps not be taken at face value.
In this film, the five - no, wait, it's really four because one guy never gets to undergo the procedure, so really, he's a completely superfluous character - people who flirt with the big dirt-nap have dreams (or visions, or after-life experiences) that are connected to their pasts, reminding them of their misdeeds. The first guy remembers a boy who he bullied in grade school, the second has visions of the women he's been secretly taping during sexual encounters, and the third remembers a girl he bullied in school, because clearly someone couldn't think of a third thing, so they just put a spin on the first one. The lady doctor who insists on also undergoing the procedure, because it worked out SO well for the first three who tried it, has memories of her father's suicide - yeah, good times. I bet she's glad she demanded to be part of the experiment.
Once brought back to life, the doctors start experiencing hallucinations of the kids they bullied or the women they've wronged, and it becomes harder and harder for them to tell what's real. One gets beat up by the kid he bullied so badly that it causes him real injuries - but wait, how is that possible? Did they really bring evil entities back into the world with them when they came back from the afterlife? Do they feel so guilty over their sins that they're inflicting damage on themselves while hallucinating? It's really not clear - so I guess you can take it whichever way you want, but that's sort of a narrative cop-out, isn't it?
What's most annoying is that they spend the first third of the film arguing over how much of a bad idea this is, allowing each other to die, even under medical supervision. OK, well if you think it's such a bad idea, then don't do it, don't even argue about it, just leave the room! And then even once the experiments have started, all they do is bicker. And whisper. And bicker-whisper. Why are you all whispering, there's no one else in the lab, or the cafeteria, or whatever strange campus meeting hall you're essentially killing each other in.
There are rumblings about plans for a remake of this film, because everything from the 80's and 90's is fair game now, but they could probably find a film that's less silly to update. Because playing around with near-death experience was one of the worst fads of the early 1990's, along with Furbys and Tamagotchis and listening to Hanson.
Also starring Kevin Bacon (last seen in "Novocaine"), Julia Roberts (last seen in "My Best Friend's Wedding"), William Baldwin, Oliver Platt (last seen in "Ready to Rumble"), Hope Davis (last seen in "Arlington Road"), Kimberly Scott.
RATING: 3 out of 10 refrigerated blankets