The Lazarus Effect is a bit of an anomaly in that it is a low budget film with a relatively green crew, yet features an ensemble cast of recognizable and talented actors. The end result is exactly what one might expect from such a formula: a film with solid performances and an interesting concept that eventually fades into a ridiculous mess.
The Lazarus Effect is about a couple named Zoe and Frank (Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass) who work in the field of medical research with a group of young students (Evan Peters, Donald Glover, and Sarah Bolger). The group has been experimenting with what they call the Lazarus serum, which as the name implies, is intended to bring its deceased subjects back to life. After tinkering with the serum, the colleagues finally succeed in bringing a dog back from the dead. However, an attempt to replicate the experiment results in a fatal accident, as an error leads to Zoe being electrocuted. Frank quickly decides to try the serum on Zoe, a controversial decision which predictably leads to disastrous results.
It is difficult to rate a film as bipolar as The Lazarus Effect. The first half of the film is actually quite deep and very well-acted. For about the first 45 minutes or so, The Lazarus Effect begins to scratch the surface on what could make for a highly dramatic and intriguing story. The film touches on some oft-debated, sometimes controversial topics such as the afterlife and the possible consequences of "playing God". The gravity of what the team is experimenting with is presented in a relatable, realistic way that really draws you into their world. The characters' motivations are clear, and the dialogue and themes are surprisingly stimulating for a horror film.
...And it's all downhill from there. A gripping first two acts are all but erased by one of the steepest nosedives since David Fincher's The Game. Perhaps the reason for this is partially my fault; I became so engrossed in the plot and moral/ethical aspects of it that I briefly forgot that I was watching a horror film. So when the plot was sacrificed in favor of jump scares, my interest began to wane rapidly. It's not that the horror elements were poorly executed, but such a change in gear left a bit of a poor taste in my mouth. The characters also became stripped of their prior development and the plot just about disappeared.
I'll be honest in that I didn't expect much from The Lazarus Effect, but my hope began to rise as the film showed an unexpected amount of intelligence and intrigue. My hope, however, was quickly robbed as the film dissolved into typical low-budget, B-movie fare.