Horror History

Daily Horror History, August 10th: ‘Flatliners’, ‘Sette note in nero’

In fairness, I never saw the Flatliners remake from last year, so it might be better than I could have ever imagined. An unfairly maligned hidden gem. But the trailer sure as hell didn’t sell me, its critical and audience ratings range from poor to pitiful, and I never liked the original film all that much in the first place. Still, it’s a notable entry in the horror genre, and introduced an interesting premise to a lot of fans.

(I note in my CFJ entry on Simon’s Soul that that obscure novel did it before Flatliners, but also abandons the premise for even stranger things before the midpoint of the book. Meanwhile, the first literary work to tackle the idea of killing and medically resuscitating people deliberately is apparently Jack London’s “A Thousand Deaths”, released way back in 1899, although the person being killed and brought back in that short story is not a volunteer for the experiment).

Despite not caring for the film, I have to admit that the original Flatliners, released on August 10th, 1990, made an impression on people.  It had enough name cachet that a cash-in remake 27-years later actually made financial sense on paper. I’d wager if you were holding a movie trivia contest in a room full of Gen-Xers (and maybe even a bit younger) and asked what movie the line “Today is a good day to die” comes from, most of the contestants would know right away, and could even name the actor who spoke it. Nonetheless, upon its release it was only a modest success at the box office, despite starring Julia Roberts fresh off the heels of mega-hit Pretty Woman and co-starring Kevin Bacon, who’d scored a genre hit earlier in the year with Tremors.

On the lesser-known side of things, August 10th marks the limited release date of the 1977 Italian film Sette note in nero (translation: Seven Notes in Black), later-known-as The Psychic.

First, that original Italian title is so much better than the English title it was given for its world-wide release. Second, how wonderful is that poster? “As wonderful as wonderful can be,” is the correct answer. (“Ah, but wait, what of this poster?” someone asks. “Fine enough, sure, but I stand by my earlier assessment.”)  Finally, this might be Lucio Fulci’s most underrated movie, and should be readily discussed as one of his best, overshadowed by Don’t Torture a Duckling (which preceded it), Zombi 2, his “Gates of Hell Trilogy”, and even the notorious New York Ripper. Sette note in nero is at least the equal to most of these, and possibly superior (although The Beyond will always top the list, for me). Being a much more restrained Fulci horror film probably explains why it’s overlooked, along with the similarly underrated Una lucertola con la pelle di donna (translation: A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin – my God, those Italian titles).