The Lazarus Effect is a thriller/horror film from director David Gelb. The film stars Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, and Donald Glover as four grant researchers testing the effects of a special serum on dead animals. During their research, the manage to revive a dead and blind dog. The dog, miraculously healthy (even regaining his eyesight), shows extreme activity in his brain from the serum, which doesn’t seem to be decaying from his body as the scientist’s expected it would. Clay (Peters) points out that the increased neural firing will have an adverse affect on the aggression center of the dog’s brain, causing the animal to become dangerous.
When a pharmaceutical company takes over their research, leaving the researchers and their newly-hired videographer Eva (Sarah Bolger) with nothing, the quintet decides to replicate the study with a new dog. During the test, Zoe (Wilde) dies from injuries sustained from an electrocution, and her husband Frank (Duplass) rashly decides to use the serum on her. However, the resurrected Zoe is not the same person that she was before.
This reanimation thriller certainly has some things going for it. There are particular scenes that are visually appealing, either from an effects or cinematographic standpoint. One of the final sequences makes good use of the film’s CGI budget, and one scene involving Wilde, a mirror, and a dog is shot fairly intricately.
The acting, as well, is up to par for a horror film, if not underwhelming for the talent put forth. Duplass, Peters, and Bolger hold their own inside characters that have nothing to say for themselves. Wilde starts strong but fails to embody the sinister evil that her resuscitated character demands. The fault for the lack of any stellar performances from the cast lies on the script. None of the characters branch out from flat archetypes, and their motivations are simply presented with little development involved.
The narrative itself attempts to place a unique spin on the undead concept, but it never really leaves the ground with the idea. The science versus faith debate that is presented in the beginning makes it hard for the film’s concept of medical reanimation to be made novel. Additionally, the use of Zoe’s past through a repeated dream sequence doesn’t quite live up to the questions that it poses. The final payoff of her nightmare is more likely to induce a groan than anything else.
In the end, The Lazarus Effect tries hard to be something it’s not: original. The acting and the visuals may be enough to get you through the film, but you won’t leave feeling that the experience was gratifying.
As a final side-note, the film relies heavily on the now essentially mandatory use of the jump-scare. It uses the tactic any chance that it can. Sure, this induces some flinching, but the suspense builds to nothing more than these moments of obnoxious sound effects and turn-around-and-something’s-there gags. This leaves The Lazarus Effect as an ultimately underwhelming horror flick.
This wasn’t the horror film for me. But maybe it can be the horror movie for you. If you want to check it out, you can find it on Amazon:
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen The Lazarus Effect? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)