THE LAZARUS EFFECT
Director: David Gelb
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, Donald Glover, Sarah Bolger
I was reminded, yet again, that I prefer old school horror films. You know, the ones from the ‘60s and ‘70s that are psychological scares with practical effects. It feels rare when a recent horror flick produces some good scares with an original plot. The Lazarus Effect is one of the laziest and cheapest scary films to have hit theaters recently. Zoe (Wilde) and Frank (Duplass) are young doctors on the verge of a scientific breakthrough. They also happen to be engaged to each other but have put their wedding plans on hold. They recently received a grant to continue their work, so all of their time is spent in the lab with two fellow technicians (Peters and Glover) and a young filmmaker (Bolger) who’s documenting their whole process.
Zoe and Frank have developed a serum called “Lazarus” that is injected into the brain and could have the potential to bring someone or something back from the dead. Their latest breakthrough comes after successfully bringing a dog back to the life after it was put down for having cataracts. The dog starts having some serious side effects by displaying signs of destructive behavior. This is the least of the team’s worries after Zoe is electrocuted and dies in their lab. Leave it to Frank to have his blinders on by deciding to experiment on Zoe. He shoves the serum into Zoe’s brain despite opposition from the rest of the crew. Naturally, she comes back to life with horrible repercussions.
There are two minor elements of the film that I got a kick out of, the use of the “Queen of the Night” aria as background working music for Zoe and the fact that Donald Glover and Evan Peters play Settlers of Catan at one point. Unfortunately, these super random gems cannot save this garbage of a horror movie. How many times have we seen this Frankenstein/Lazarus/bring ‘em back from the dead routine before? There is nothing about this film that feels fresh and original. Even the scares seem manufactured. Director David Gelb is primarily known for documentaries like Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I wonder if Gelb just watched a bunch of horror flicks in preparation and took notes on what’s “scary”. Every attempt to scare the audience feels ripped off from some other movie or a known cliché from the genre. You can’t just flick the lights on and off numerous times with no purpose just to produce scares. The idea of watching bodies getting flung across the room and getting locked in a cabinet is also getting old. Same goes for video camera footage. Snoooooze. At least they reference Cujo when referring to their evil dog.
I had high hopes for the film despite it’s unoriginal premise. I typically enjoy all four of the main leads, but it soon became apparent this was a paycheck movie. Evan Peters stated in an interview that the film was shot a couple of years ago. He must have been on a hiatus from “American Horror Story” and needed extra cash. The same could probably said for Donald Glover. I’m guessing the ever-evolving state of “Community” left him in limbo. Mark Duplass (Tammy, “Togetherness”) and Olivia Wilde (“House”, Her) are wasted as well. All four of them are far better and should have know better than signing on for this. Again, what did the see in this material? A paycheck is the only reason that seems plausible.
Bad horror movies can be fun. We’ve all seen those types where you can laugh along the way at the bimbo girl, bad acting, and bad special effects. There’s a campiness factor that can be had with those types. The Lazarus Effect just left me angry afterwards. We have good actors that are doing the best they can, but even they can’t play God and resurrect a movie that loses all its life after the first twenty minutes. Luckily for any audience member that goes and stays, this film is only 83 minutes. And that’s with the credits.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It’s at the top of my Worst of 2015 list.
RATING: 1/2 out of 5 TICKET STUBS