Medical professionals Frank Walton (Mark Duplass) and Zoe McConnell (Olivia Wilde) and their team of researchers have discovered a way to bring the dead back to life through a serum code-named “Lazarus”. While running tests on some animal corpses, Zoe is killed in a lab accident.
Okay, I think I see where this is going.
Desperate to bring his colleague back, Frank uses the serum on her and is stunned when it works. However, once she begins to display some abilities that are beyond the norm, he and his team realize that maybe they’ve opened a door that should’ve never been opened.
So this is a story we’ve seen before about a group of doctors that come up with an unorthodox breakthrough of raising the dead back to life, and after carefully debating the pros and cons and the ethics of this breakthrough, they perform a test and it’s a resounding success. The cover of Time, the Nobel Peace Prize and Sanjay Gupta hailing Marie Curie as a “fucking amateur hack” compared to these doctors ensue.
What actually happens is they perform one test on a dog that works but raises more than a few sketchy question marks that leaves some concerned, then after a freak accident kills one of the doctors, they figure that it kinda sorta worked once on an animal so perhaps a human will work too.
And it’s all downhill from there.
The Lazarus Effect is about the billionth film to warn viewers about what happens when Dr. Frankenstein complex kicks in you attempt to play God. It’s been done before, but all can be forgiven if the film can scare you. Well, the good news is if you’re easily scared by sound effects then this movie is gonna be The Exorcist for you. Despite some earnest performances, The Lazarus Effect falls back on way too many jump scares and is filled with so many cliches, including the most overused ending in the horror genre, that the black guy dying first and the young innocent “virgin” (As Sigourney Weaver would say in The Cabin in the Woods, “We work with what we got.”) surviving at the end are the freshest things about this film.
Here’s what’s so frustrating about a film like this. It takes a very talented cast (Olivia Wilde getting to have a little fun as a demonic Lucy, Mark Duplass from The League, Donald Glover from Community and Evan Peters from American Horror Story and X-Men: Days of Future Past), sticks them inside a premise that contains a tiny bit of potential if put in the right hands, yet wastes it all in favor of dumb, boring, repetitive jump scares.
Cue the loud, obnoxious sound effect now.
Oh no! The crazy dog’s escaped. Where could he be? Turn to my right; he’s not there. Turn to my left; he’s not there. Let’s turn back to the – BAM!!!!
Did the experiment work on Dr. McConnell. She still looks dea – BAM!!!!
Oh no! The crazy demonic bitch is on a rampage. Where could she – BAM!!!!
Don’t forget what I call the “Three Flicker Rule”. You know, it’s that moment when two characters are stuck in a room with the lights flickering on and off while escaping the monster. Wait for it… One flicker… Hold on… Two flicker… Just wait… Three – oh, there it is.
Director David Gelb does what he can to establish some sorta chilling atmosphere, and cinematographer Michael Fimognari helps by giving the film an ominous tone to his shots. However, it’s impossible for a film to be scary when the material makes no effort whatsoever to be anything more than easy “BOO!!” scares. A few are acceptable, but too many can turn things tedious, and when you can predict each beat coming from a mile away like you do here, even those cheap moments meant to make you jump are gonna leave you barely moving a muscle.
There is no doubt that if not for the talented cast involved, The Lazarus Effect would be destined for straight-to-DVD faster than it takes me to finish typing this sentence. Although I can’t for the life of me imagine what exactly drew them to this project, the cast at least tries to make due with what they got. Their efforts, though, can’t undo just how dull and insipid these characters are. As stale and tired as the scares are, you’d think the doctors would’ve been wise to have resurrected this lifeless script first.
I give The Lazarus Effect a D (★).