– Summary –
Director : David Gelb
Year Of Release : 2015
Principal Cast : Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters, Donald Glover, Ray Wise, Amy Aquino.
Approx Running Time : 83 Minutes
Synopsis: A research team discover a way to reanimate the dead, only to be forced to bring one of their own back to life, with terrifying consequences.
What we think : Mindless sci-fi thriller is light on emotional wallop and heavy on superficial chills. Olivia Wilde leads a good cast wasted in this preposterous tale that takes Frankenstein’s ideas and supports them in the name of science.
Obviously these people never read Mary Shelley.
Sometimes a film can take a fairly silly plot and turn it into a thoroughly entertaining film. Sometimes a film takes a great plot and turns it into a stupid film. More often than not, however, a film is stupid to begin with, and doesn’t get any better. The Lazarus Effect takes a thoroughly implausible plot conceit and tries to give it life (ha!) but cannot, limiting what little scares and twists it musters to shattering sound cues and ratcheted camerawork. A laughable idea given life like a bad Frankenstein movie, The Lazarus Effect had me chuckling at its rank silliness more than any scares it might have thrown up.
Frank (Mark Duplass) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde) work at a research facility where they’ve discovered a link to a bodily chemical that could possibly reverse death. With their research team Niko (Donald Glover) and Clay (Evan Peters), and videographer Eva (Sarah Bolger), they successfully reanimate a dead dog (who they name Rocky) before their research is scooped up in a hostile takeover to ensure intellectual property is retained by the people (Ray Wise) who gave them the money for the research. In order to prove their theories, the team break into the lab to undertake one last session to resurrect another deceased animal, only Zoe is killed during the process. Frank, to whom Zoe is engaged, isn’t willing to let her die so he injects her with the serum and brings her back to life. But the Zoe who returns isn’t the Zoe who died, and it’s only a matter of time before the team are fighting for their lives.
Mixing science with horror, The Lazarus Effect is effectively mediocre. A product of its time, the slick, well shot scare-flick has plenty of nice photography and a competent cast doing their best “small ensemble” work to bring Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater’s script to life. With a gamut of technobabble setting up the premise, and a fairly slick, generic sense of character, the script tries to inject malevolence from the opening frame (the team try and resurrect a pig) with it’s “security camera” angles and clever, macro-photography, but David Gelb’s solid direction can’t elicit much more than a mild tingle of skin or a flicker of jump-scare thrill, which is telling.
I found the premise utterly preposterous from the get-go, mainly because of the straight-faced nature of the character’s emotional investment in what they’re doing. Trying to bring the dead back to life, in order to… prolong life? Yeah, that’s never gonna work. Frankenstein would be rolling in his grave. Still, Lazarus pushes on, its narrative centering on an emotionally wrought Zoe as she wistfully aches to be married to Frank (they’re engaged, but put off the wedding to focus on the research), but neither of them seem terribly infatuated with each other – it doesn’t help that Wilde is way out of Duplass’ league – and this mild, unassuming “romance” angle sputters and dies early, when it should propel the film along following Zoe’s early demise.
Consequently, The Lazarus Effect’s emotional core is missing. It’s an empty film, devoid of passion; what little passion there was is replaced by a fairly dreary “shock” film, light on tension and big on superficial scares. If that’s all you’re after, then have at it. If you’re hoping for something of quality (in terms of story or character) you’ll be left wanting. While it’s a slick production that doesn’t skimp on the technical aspects, as far as genuine grab-your-armrests chills it’s sadly DOA.