Synopsis: The Lazarus Effect follows a group of researchers led by Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancee Zoe (Olivia Wilde,) who’ve achieved the unimaginable – bringing the dead back to life. After a successful, yet unsanctioned, trial on a newly deceased animal, the team is ready to unveil their breakthrough to the world. When the dean of their university learns of their underground experiments, their project is unexpectedly shut down and their materials confiscated. Frank, Zoe and their team (Donald Glover, Sarah Bolger and Evan Peters) take matters into their own hands, launching a rogue attempt to recreate their experiment, during which things go terribly wrong and one of their own, Zoe, is horrifically killed. Fueled by terror and grief, Frank pushes them to do the unthinkable: attempt to resurrect their first human test subject. Initially, the procedure appears a success, but the team soon realizes something is wrong with Zoe. As her strange new persona reveals itself, the team quickly becomes stuck in a gruesome reality. They are no longer faced with the question of whether they can bring someone back to life, but rather, the wrath of her return.
Release Date: February 27, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
On paper, The Lazarus Effect should be good. It’s got a cool concept about re-animating the dead, a couple of bankable stars in Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed, “The League”) and Olivia Wilde (Cowboys & Aliens, Third Person), and the power of horror mavericks Blumhouse Productions and Lionsgate Studios. Unfortunately, the paper saying that The Lazarus Effect was good would be wrong. Very wrong.
The Lazarus Effect is about a married couple of doctors named Frank Walton (Duplass) and Zoe O’Connell (Wilde) who are working on something called The Lazarus Project which, for those who don’t know anything about the bible (or didn’t read the last paragraph), concerns bringing dead organisms back to life. Their team, consisting of a research assistant named Clay (Evan Peters from “American Horror Story”), an IT expert named Niko (Donald Glover from “Community”), and a video documentarian named Eva (In America‘s Sarah Bolger), has a major success when they find that they are able to re-animate a freshly euthanized dog. The dog, however, comes back using more of the neural area of his brain than before and shows signs of higher intelligence…and aggression. While trying to duplicate the experiment, Zoe is electrocuted. Overcome with grief, the team decides to use their Lazarus serum to bring her back…with predictably horrifying results.
The Lazarus Effect is bad. Really bad. It was directed by documentary filmmaker David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi) and written by Luke Dawson (Shutter) and Jeremy Slater (who’s also working on the new Fantastic Four script), all of whom seem to have just watched a bunch of horror movies and stolen every single trope and stereotype from them – there is nothing original about the film at all. A rough cut of The Lazarus Effect could probably be assembled from shots and scenes from other movies if a semi-knowledgeable horror fan ever decided to attempt it. They probably shouldn’t, since that wouldn’t change the dried-up Flatliners-meets-Lucy storyline, but if someone wanted to try, it would be an interesting experiment. The bottom line is that there is nothing in The Lazarus Effect that horror fans have not seen, and seen done in a more effective way.
The merciful thing about The Lazarus Effect is that it goes by pretty quickly – it has a brisk running time of 83 minutes. This is interesting because it seems that even the filmmakers got tired of the movie. There is hardly any character development; it’s almost as if the director purposely wants the audience to not form a bond with the research team so they’re not missed at all when the bodies start dropping like flies. There are loose ends and plot holes – a past between Niko and Zoe is hinted at but never explored, and the surface of a childhood trauma in Zoe’s life is merely scratched – that could easily have been tied up and filled in by adding another seven minutes and getting the length up to a standard ninety, but who’s got time for that? Certainly not the makers of The Lazarus Effect. The film is as disposable as its characters.
The potential for scares is there in The Lazarus Effect, but director David Gelb telegraphs every frightening scene so that even a viewer with just a casual fandom of horror films will know what’s coming. When a camera pans one way and then pans back, something scary is going to be there. When the lights turn off and back on, something scary is going to be there. It’s almost insulting to the audience that the filmmakers think that they will get a reaction out of what shows up onscreen in the movie. It’s all too derivative and duplicitous to frighten anyone. If it were the only horror film ever made, The Lazarus Effect might have a shot at being scary. It’s not, so it doesn’t.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): David Gelb
- Screenwriter(s): Luke DawsonJeremy Slater
- Cast: Mark Duplass (Frank)Olivia Wilde (Zoe)Sarah Bolger (Eva) Evan Peters (Clay)Donald Glover (Niko)
- Cinematographer: Michael Fimognari
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Sarah Schachner
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA