Apr 052016



By: Bill Nelson

Today we’ll be taking a look at 2015’s The Lazarus Effect, starring Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters, and Donald Glover. The basic premise of this movie reminds me a bit of the old old Kevin Bacon/Kiefer Sutherland/Julia Roberts thriller Flatliners. In that film a group of medical students decide to test the idea that there is life after death by temporarily stopping their hearts and then allowing themselves to be resuscitated at the last possible safe moment. In The Lazarus Effect we trade out med students for pharmaceutical researchers who are working on a drug that maintain brain activity for extended periods of time in the absence of oxygen with the hope that they can extend the time available to resuscitate someone without permanent brain damage, however, their drug (which they call the Lazarus serum) seems to have the ability to reactivate electrical activity in the brain even after extended periods without oxygen, essentially giving them the ability to resurrect the dead.

Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde head the film playing Frank Walton and his fiance, Zoe Mcconnell, who originally developed the serum while Evan Peters and Donald Glover play fellow scientists working on the project with them. Sarah Bolger plays a videographer brought in to document the strange turn their research has taken. After successfully bringing a dog back from the dead the team spends a few days monitoring the creature. Strangely the dog’s body seems to heal itself of disease such as cataracts clouding its eyes. It also seems alternately reluctant to respond and overly aggressive. The dog also exhibits odd abilities that only the audience is clued into initially. Eventually the university gets wind of the research the team is doing which is in violation of the grant they are operating under and all of their research is taken by the pharmaceutical company that owns the grant in an all too brief cameo by the great Ray Wise. The team, fearing that their contributions in the development of this seeming new wonder drug will be ignored, sneak back into their laboratory seeking to document one last experiment to prove they originated the Lazarus serum. Tragedy strikes when a power surge leaves Zoe dead. Zack, overcome with grief, demands they use the serum on her and, of course, all hell breaks loose.

So yeah, that’s the movie. If it sounds predictable, it is. The only real differences between this and Flatliners is that everyone in Flatliners tries the experience of dying and all of them eventually deal with what they brought back from the other side. Here, only Zoe dies and no one really knows how to deal with her. The talent is strong in this cast, particularly Wilde and Duplass who elevate the dull, early part of the movie to the point that you almost think it’s going to be better than it really is but the truth is none of the people appearing in this flick deserved the level of crap that it descends to.

So why, if there’s so much talent here, is the movie that bad? True, predictability in and of itself doesn’t make for a bad movie, just a boring one. The Lazarus Effect commits one of the most cardinal of cinema sins by not committing to a genre. It’s ok to be a hybrid genre and at times that appears to be what The Lazarus Effect is going for, but it never quite gels the thriller aspects of the story with the horror. By the time the film abandons the psychological build up that’s been occurring for almost the entire movie and gives itself over to full balls to the wall supernatural horror it’s too little too late. There are some definite flashes of story potential here and there but overall this is just not a good movie. In fact, it’s the worst that a horror movie can be because it’s boring. At least if it had been so bad it’s kind of funny there’d have been a reason to watch it.

Stank Ranking ­- – 8/10

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