The Lazarus Effect, 2015.
Directed by David Gelb.
Starring Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters, Donald Glover, Ray Wise.
A group of medical students discover a way to bring dead patients back to life.
The title of David Gelb’s resurrection based horror relates to the bible story of Lazarus who became ill and when he passed away Jesus came and resurrected him after four days of being dead. This pretty much sets you up for the film. There is little to no new ground in The Lazarus Effect, but that doesn’t mean the film is completely bereft of life.
Audiences follow a team of scientists lead by Dr Frank Walton (Mark Duplass) and Dr Zoe McConnell (Olivia Wilde) and a documentary film maker named Eva (Sarah Bolger) as they work on a serum, aptly named ‘Lazarus’, that is designed and destined to keep coma patients alive. However, they soon discover that the serum can go one step further, and reinstate life. They draft in the documentary film maker to chronicle their discoveries as they resurrect a deceased dog. When the funding body discovers the team have gone rogue and made their own discoveries they withdraw funding and their equipment is seized. When Frank convinces the team to return to the laboratory and duplicate what they had already done, an accident results on Zoe getting electrocuted and dying. In Franks grief stricken mania he decides to bring her back to life using the serum, however things aren’t as stable as they may initially appear when she returns.
As has been stated this plot is not original. What begins as something of a cross between Pet Sematary and Frankenweenie then turns into a modern version of Re-Animator. There are many films that depict resurrection bringing people back but with dark differences, just look at the Tales of Beedle the Bard in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One and the bride that was brought back from the dead. It never goes well.
The Lazarus Effect utilises some typical horror film components such as the completely blacked out eyes to depict somebody being taken over by evil, the use of telekinesis, being trapped in a confined area with no escape, the use of lights going on and off and being in the pitch black. These are all solidly executed, but there is nothing that stands out as exceptional or impressive. It feels conventional and standard as a supernatural horror.
There are some genuine jumpy scares during the film, but the pace does slow oftentimes which can mean it gets boring and loses momentum. The plot tried to offer twists but they fail to deliver any shocks or surprises and the film ends with the typical open ending that offers the potential for a sequel. There is an atmosphere of having utilised all of the standard points of a standard horror film but never developing it much further beyond that. Whilst the subject matter has potential, there is no original twist that would make the film stand out. There is a recycling of horror film tropes that feels more than familiar, it feels lacklustre.
The performances are what you would expect from the experienced actors playing the parts. Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass portray their characters well, however the scripting is quite underdeveloped and there is only so much you can flog a dead horse, or dog, or girlfriend. Unfortunately, the casting should have provided a much stronger execution had the material been of a higher standard.
The Lazarus Effect is not a film with the power to resurrect anything, though it may well put horror fans to sleep with its lack of ingenuity and originality. A couple of good jumps are offered, but nothing novel or unprecedented. A strong saves the film to a certain extent and that is all that makes the film watchable. This is set to pass filmgoers by and is unlikely to be resurrected.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★