Synopsis – A group of medical students discover a way to bring dead patients back to life.
My Take – Now days its seems pretty easy to make a horror film – get an idea & a modest budget of $3-$5 million & get some good looking people to star in it. Ouija (2014) is a perfect example of such formula, no matter how bad the film was (oh so bad!), made on a shoestring budget of $5 million, the film went on to gross $99.8 million worldwide! Here, despite it’s mild financial success ($26 million worldwide on $5 million budget), impressive cast and intriguing story idea, it’s still a pretty boring and unimpressive supernatural thriller. While watching this film its was pretty evident director David Gelb is a rookie as he happens to stamp his inexperience all over the film with cliches borrowed from other films. The story follows scientists Frank (Mark Duplass) & his fiancee/ lab partner Zoe (Olivia Wilde) who have been experimenting on a new serum called Lazarus, which is intended to help coma patients. After experimenting on a dead dog, they learn their serum can actually bring dead animals back to life. Unfortunately the serum has some bizarre side effects too, of course, and their unsanctioned project is soon shut down and taken over, by a large pharmaceutical corporation. Rather than sit back, and let their breakthrough idea be stolen from them, Frank and Zoe break into their lab, late at night, to do more experimenting; along with their colleagues Clay (Evan Peters), Niko (Donald Glover) and Documentary film maker Eva (Sarah Bolger). But things go wrong as Zoe is accidentally killed in the process.
The group decides to resurrect Zoe, an action that comes with horrible consequences. As someone that has seen lot of really bad horror films, the mediocrity of this film really surprised me. This film is so dull, it could barely keep my attention; for it’s 83 minute running length. It’s definitely nowhere near the classic that the, very similarly themed, 90s horror cult classic Flatliners (1990) is. Unfortunately now days you don’t watch a horror film for its concept, but the predictable jump-scares & the dialed in dialogues. This movie is literally just a hodgepodge of movies like: Lucy (the whole 10% of your brain thing), The Phoenix Project, Pet Semetary, Flatliners, etc.
But my main problem lies with the main concept itself, like we never get to know – Why does she go nuts? The answer is not the best explained, but involve a scarring memory and a fear of hell. If you’re bored with this odd story, which I was, you might enjoy the challenge of picking out various movie references this movie holds, many in homage to Stephen King. There are times when this ambiguous tale is very rushed, most likely for more scare time, leaving out some necessary details and development this movie needs. Even the suspense is dulled by the rushed pace, especially in terms of the deaths occurring in the span of 15 minutes. Oh well at least the deaths were not too over the top or monotone as we see trending in horror movies these days. While a college campus lab may not seem scary, the lights suddenly going out can make even the nicest place a living “hell”.
The entirety of the film takes place inside a university laboratory, so the claustrophobia factor is heavy, although the finale is a bit hackneyed and overdone with flashy strobe effects and convenient lights on-lights off techniques to give way for cheap thrills. The fiery CGI in the last ten minutes and the burning doll montages are also a bit tired and uninspired; the PG-13 colors bleed through in moments like these. If that’s not enough, perhaps an anthropomorphic crazy dog may raise the hair on your skin. The real kicker here is that the film’s characters are overall terribly one-dimensional, and there is little for the audience to connect with. What does shock me is that the producers were able to attract such a talented cast; who are all wasted in the movie! Mark Duplass seems uninspired, while Evan Peters and Donald Glover turn in fine performances but are really only around for comic relief. The performances overall are not terrible— it’s more an issue of script than actors, I think. Olivia Wilde may be the only performer here to transcend this, but it also could be because she’s got the best material of the bunch. Some of her antics (completing other characters’ sentences and reading minds) after being revived are goosebumps-inducing, and she is genuinely threatening at times. On the whole, ‘The Lazarus Effect’ is a tired and uninspired horror film in more ways than one, but it does deal with some fascinating philosophical and scientific territory, well except that the film is just flat!
Director – David Gelb
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 83 minutes