The Lazarus Effect (2015)
Directed by David Gelb
I have a love/hate relationship with horror movies. I love them, but they hate me. I’m, well, easily terrified. So I’m not entirely sure if “The Lazarus Effect” was actually scary or if I’m just a wimp. I would never venture to say it’s a good movie, either way. But if you’re easily frightened, “The Lazarus Effect” may have that same paranoia-inducing effect on you.
If you know your Bible trivia, you should be familiar with the story of Lazarus, the man Jesus brought back from the dead. A team of medical scientists (Donald Glover and Evan Peters) at a college in California, led by Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Wilde), are close to finding a medicinal equivalent. So they bring in an amateur documentarian, Eva (Sarah Bolger), to record their progress. When they bring a dog back from the dead, they know they might have something powerful on their hands. But it has some undesirable effects. So when Zoe dies unexpectedly and the team rushes the process to try to bring her back, they don’t know entirely what to expect. You, on the other hand, might have an idea.
Like most horror movies, “The Lazarus Effect” relies on cheap tricks – sudden motion and loud, unexpected noises – to get you to jump. You can spot the signs…you’ve probably seen enough scary movies to tell when something is coming. But expecting it doesn’t fully prepare you. And when one scene really stretches it out, building suspense with every passing second, you’ll be begging them to hurry up and end your panic.
I’ve never been wild about Mark Duplass. “The Lazarus Effect” shows precisely why. He’s a total dope, unable to play a serious man convincingly. But most of the cast (including Duplass, best known for “The League,” Donald Glover, best known for “Community,” and Evan Peters, best known for “Kick-Ass”) are sarcastic comedic actors. Maybe that was the casting department’s intent. Olivia Wilde isn’t much better. Her role consists of a lot of dead-eye stares and dark one-liners. Perhaps the best actor was Cato, the dog brought back from the dead with mixed results.
Plus, the story is mostly incoherent. I consider myself pretty keen on the art of understanding movies, but this plot was full of holes and unanswered questions. Maybe those will be answered in “The Lazarus Effect 2,” which was conveniently set up. “Low-brow” is a good word for it. “The Lazarus Effect” was enough to get my heart rate rising, but it wasn’t able to fool me into thinking it was a good movie. Dead on arrival.