Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 23 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Horror Violence, Terror and some Sexual References
Directed by: David Gelb
Written by: Luke Dawson & Jeremy Slater
Starring: Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Evan Peters, Donald Glover & Sarah Bolger
When I first read about THE LAZARUS EFFECT (originally titled LAZARUS), I couldn’t help but think that this film would wind up in one of two camps. It could either be this generation’s equivalent of FLATLINERS (a severely underrated flick from the early 90’s) or it could wind up like GODSEND (a deservedly forgotten mediocre flick from 2004). LAZARUS EFFECT ends up in neither of these camps because it’s definitely no FLATLINERS and goes far beyond the level of bad where GODSEND lies. This film is pretty much everything that’s wrong with the current state of mainstream horror movies. Adding insult to injury, it sports a cool premise that’s totally wasted on this garbage.
In this age of medical wonders, scientist couple Frank and Zoe has invented a serum that can actually bring someone back from the dead. After many instances of trial and error, their medical team has managed to bring back a deceased dog. The serum seems to have much greater side effects than originally intended by healing any former health problems as well as evolving brain functions. Through a series of incidents, Zoe winds up being electrocuted and Frank (against the better judgment of his team) decides to inject his fiancé with the serum. This results in Zoe coming back from the dead with baggage that could potentially kill Frank and his crew.
There is little in the way of character development which makes each one of these would-be characters into clichéd potential victims. Besides the scientist couple, there’s also the token black guy, the e-cig smoking jerk, and the naïve documentary filmmaker. Olivia Wilde tries to make the most of what she can as Zoe, but this quickly changes when her character is brought back from the dead. From that point on, Wilde acts creepy much to the stupidity of everyone surrounding her. Mark Duplass has a knack for picking pretty good properties and downright awful ones (e.g. TAMMY). This falls squarely into the latter as he simply seems to be reciting the lines for a quick paycheck (all actors have to take these roles at some point). Ray Wise also shows up for a one-scene cameo for some unknown reason.
In the story department, LAZARUS EFFECT clearly doesn’t know what angle to take with its material, so it tries to take all of them. There are discussions about religion and science that could have brought about thought-provoking scenes, but only boil down to PG-13 supernatural slasher fare. Is Zoe possessed or turning into a bloodthirsty psychic? You won’t know. Will you give a shit? Probably not. There’s a clear scene involving a cross trying to give a demonic angle, but there’s also an overly familiar speech about how humans only use 10% of their brain (that did remind me of LUCY). Nothing in LAZARUS EFFECT makes much sense including a last-minute revelation served up like a would-be bombshell that managed to make the entire movie even worse than it already was.
Is LAZARUS EFFECT scary? Well, if by scary, you mean that there’s a jump scare in the first five minutes with footage of a pig being brought back to life, then yes, it’s absolutely “terrifying.” If you’re a teenager who loved OUIJA, THE APPARITION, and THE QUIET ONES for throwing cheap fake-outs at you every five minutes, you’re likely to enjoy this movie. If you prefer your scares to be actually…well, scary…and contributing to the actual plot at hand, then you’re probably going to despise this film. Loud noises and quick pop ups do not a solid scare make. You have to build tension and suspense for either of those to be effective. Even then, that’s still a really cheap way of scaring the viewer. Special effects don’t fare much better in LAZARUS with Olivia Wilde’s character becoming more and more CGI as the film progresses. Also, for a movie running at only 83 minutes, this feels like a long, miserable experience.
Much like last year’s THE QUIET ONES (a cheap, stupid PG-13 horror film that really didn’t know what it wanted to be), LAZARUS EFFECT is a cheap, stupid PG-13 horror film that really doesn’t know what it wants to be. Instead of opting for a creative and genuinely suspenseful route, LAZARUS EFFECT goes through the motions of far too many horror films these days with uninspired scares, weak characters, and a muddled screenplay that doesn’t make any sense at all. Just go watch FLATLINERS instead. Hell, even GODSEND is a better option than LAZARUS EFFECT.