Flatliners is much more a Stephen King novel than an exploration of life after death. Five medical inters, Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt decide to research afterlife by stopping their heartbeats and returning to "life" with the help of others. What they find is more an LSD trip than the white light which most of their research told them to expect. What is also unexpected is that the nightmare experiences of their death trips stay with them after their life resumes.
Unlike "Brainstorm" in which brainwaves were recorded as people died and etherealism was achieved, Flatliners probes the guilt which each of the life travelers has stored in his or her subconscious. It is the guilt that must be rectified before the traveler can return to a normal life without Hallucination.
Much of the early part of the film is enhanced by color and light and little substance, the film has little to hold on to by way of new ideas but it does hold interest and creates curiosity in the mind of the viewer as to the resolution of the film and the lives of the students. Director Joel Schumacher draws a performance from Julia Roberts that shows she is more than a pretty woman. The most effective scene is he reunion with her dead father and the revelation of the cause of his death.
Flatliners does not make a moral statement on the resolute guilt and the evil we do to each other, but it does point to the damage that can be done to others and perhaps that some purgatory is necessary before we can see the white light expected at peaceful death. It is an absorbing quality thriller.