The Lazarus Effect – 2 out of 5
Conquering death is a common thing in fiction. Religions are built on resurrection, comic books would have died out if they didn’t originally come up with the idea of bringing dead heroes (and villains) back to life, video games would be impossible if you only had one life, and where would the world of supernatural and sci-fi horror films be without stories about a team of researchers trying to bring items back from the dead? Sure, it’s been done but there’s always the potential to do it differently or even just passably well enough to make it interesting…except The Lazarus Effect didn’t quite achieve that.
|I had the same look when the credits hit and I was like, "That's it?"|
A team of medical researchers lead by Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Wilde) are attempting to create a serum that can, essentially, resurrect the dead. Bringing on a student videographer named Eva (Sarah Bolger) to document their journey and with the help of some friends; Clay (Evan Peters) and Niko (Donald Glover), the group finds they might be on to something when they successfully bring a dog back. However, the college finds out about the experiments and shuts them down. Now they must go around the system and complete their work; unfortunately, Zoe is accidentally killed and Frank, desperate and heartbroken, uses the techniques on her. However, Zoe doesn’t seem the same and the question is now being asked: Did the process change her or did something else come over and change her into something monstrous?
|Wait...the bad aftereffects had nothing to do with the drug or Hell...it's all because|
Zoe broke a mirror.
There was definitely some potential to this film. The cast alone is made up of some really talented and enjoyable people and they each had the potential to make the film watchable. However, the end result was just another example of a PG-13 horror film that refuses to push the boundary of what’s scary. Even worse, the film and its story actually feels confused on what it wants to be.
|This part was a metaphor for what the writers did most of the time instead|
The trailer made the film feel like the resurrected Olivia Wilde monster could have been a demon from Hell or something just as sinister (what’s more sinister than a demon? Donald Trump, maybe/pretty much definitely?). However, the film plays around with the idea that not only is it possible that Zoe is a monster from the other side (or was turned into a monster because of the other side) but it also calls into question the possibility that she is going mad from the resurrection serum and is going all ScarJo in Lucy because it is allowing her to access the X-Men portion of her brain that grants supernatural powers. I have no problem with ambiguity with the cause of the madness and powers but the plot and story need to feather them out a little bit. It felt like the film was a merger of two scripts—one where Zoe is effected by her time in the afterlife and her own personal Hell she found herself in and one where the medical science was doing bad stuff to her body and it was causing her to lash out. The film will jump back and forth where it made me feel like that it had no idea which way it wanted to lean as it one second makes Zoe feel like a monster of science and one second comes off like a monster from the other side. A little more focus or having the whole ordeal be something that can be explained in either way (make it look like the possibility for her homicidal rage be possible supernatural in definition or medical in explanation) could have helped this movie a lot but what was delivered was a muddled mess that came off like the writers had no clear vision of what their major element of conflict would be. It clearly wants to be mysterious and slightly ambiguous but it just comes off as confused.
|You think he's upset with the messy plot but really he's fussing over his|
fantasy football team.
Additionally, the film’s body count is about as light as the low running length. I get it, the film has a small cast and it’s about intimacy and having this horror play out in a small and enclosing location for just a few people but the problem comes in with the fact that the characters aren’t developed very well and the fact the deaths are weak for even a PG-13 movie. Aside from the fact this group is working on a way to bring back the dead, you don’t really learn much about them. Sure, you learn the Zoe had a traumatic childhood but, beyond that, the most you learn about them is that Frank loves Zoe, Niko also loves her, Eva can work a camcorder and Clay likes his E-cigarette. That’s just about all you learn about them. Even though I enjoy all these actors tremendously, I found I couldn’t care about the characters. So, when they die in very weak, often off-camera, ways I found myself completely disinterested in the events that were transpiring around them. It also calls into question the supposedly boundless powers that Zoe contains. If the best you can do is snap a person’s neck when you can literally make the entire room’s furnishings levitate around you, you are a complete let down as an antagonist.
|But she sure looks metal as hell!|
The only real highlights the film contains is that the cast is doing the best they can with the paltry script they were dealt and the visuals from director David Gelb were far better than the weak scares this film farts out. Gelb’s use of light and shadow (and occasionally total darkness) is excellent and really primed me for something that had the potential to be really terrifying. Sadly, the visuals don’t pay off in anything remotely scary or even unnerving but, at the very least, the film looked good.
|Like look at Evan Peters here...he looks great and is lit quite well.|
However, I doubt this kid has a bad side and ever looks bad. The guy is adorable, people.
I won’t lie and say there wasn’t potential for The Lazarus Effect because it probably could have been great or even just okay. As it stands, it’s not a terrible film. I wasn’t annoyed by bad acting or cheesy special effects and it didn’t have a story that made absolutely no sense. Instead, the film just had a story that lacked focus, contained very underdeveloped characters, held no scares or thrills, and had deaths that were incredibly weak. It could have been something but it felt like it didn’t want to put in the effort.