A group of medical students discover a way to bring dead patients back to life.
Back in 1990, a movie called “Flatliners” was released. It starred Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon and it dealt with a group of medical students who experimented with ‘near-death’ experiences with terrifying consequences. “The Lazarus Effect” is pretty much that story updated for today’s audiences. “Flatliners” was a good movie with a good cast and a good director in Joel Schumacher and it made quite an impression on me at the time but sadly, even though “The Lazarus Effect” has an excellent cast in Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters and Donald Glover, it is the story and direction, or lack thereof, especially in the second half, that drops this movie into conventional waters and slowly lets it drown.
A group of scientists led by Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Wilde), are studying the effects of a new serum they have created called ‘Lazarus,’ which, in theory, should be able to bring the dead back to life. After testing the serum on several dead animals with no success, they decide to try it one more time with an increased dosage and triumphantly bring a dead dog back to life. Naturally, they are ecstatic but before they’ve had time to celebrate their achievement, the university discovers their experiments and informs them that all of their scientific research belongs to the institution and takes it away from them. The team is beyond outraged, knowing that their success will be attributed not to them but to the highest bidder, willing to pay for the serum.
With less than 24 hours to go before everything is taken out of their lab, they decide to break in and recreate their experiment and record it so that they have proof to show the world but when their endeavor goes awry, accidentally killing Zoe in the process, Frank, heartbroken, decides that the only option is to use the serum on her. When the team expresses their concern, Frank proceeds anyway and successfully brings Zoe back from the dead. However, she gradually begins to change and it quickly becomes apparent that she is not the person she once was and one by one, the members of the team meet horrifying deaths as Zoe makes her new and terrifying persona known to all.
The first half of the movie worked so well that I kept hoping and praying that the second half would surpass my expectations and that the film would be a genuinely effective thriller but alas, it was not meant to be. The actors were not the issue here, the problem was a clichéd and hackneyed last act that we’ve all seen a million times before. Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1997 highly effective sci-fi horror film “Event Horizon” had a similar idea where a ship that disappeared in deep space only to return years later, had crossed over the threshold of hell and brought it back with her. In essence, the movie turned into a haunted house in deep space and that particular idea had not been done before.
It worked effectively in that movie but here, director David Gelb applies the same techniques but none of the panache that made “Event Horizon” so impressively disturbing. We find out when Zoe died, she went to hell and when they bring her back, technically, she brings hell with her and it quickly possesses her, extinguishing any semblance of her former human self, thereby turning her into a vengeful demon who wants nothing but destruction. We all know that once Zoe dies, they will use the serum on her to try and bring her back, that much is certain but it’s like the filmmakers ran out of any original ideas past this point and the film is then reduced to clichéd and stereotypical scares, loud bangs and black demonic eyes which after the first viewings, become less and less scary, just like the movie.
In theaters February 27th
For more info about James visit his website at www.irishfilmcritic.com