Film Review: The Lazarus Effect

Olivia Wilde comes back from the dead - the movie, not so much (Image © Relativity Media) 

Olivia Wilde comes back from the dead - the movie, not so much (Image © Relativity Media) 

Do you like ridiculously predictable films?  Do you enjoy terrible pseudo-science being used as a plot device?  Are you a fan of bad dialog and unlikeable characters?  Have you never seen a remotely frightening horror film before? 

Well then, good news friend!  The Lazarus Effect is now out in theaters!

You see, Zoe (Olivia Wilde) was working on a serum that could help re-fire neurons in the brain and wanted to see if it could help revive coma patients.  With the help of her fiancé Frank (Mark Duplass), they received a federal grand and went to work deep in the basement of a college campus.  After years of hard work, their research has changed and they are now testing to see if the Lazarus serum can actually restart a dormant brain, effectively bringing a creature back from the dead.

Sounds pretty cool, right?  Yeah, that's what I thought too, when I saw Re-Animator.  *sigh*

With the help of their two assistants, Clay (Evan Peters) and Niko (Donald Glover), they work tirelessly to get the serum just right.  Eventually their hard work pays off when they successfully revive a dog that had been put down due to 'stage five cataracts' in both eyes.  Not only does the dog come back from the dead, but the cataracts heal almost immediately and brain scans show that they dog's neural activity is through the roof!  (Wait, is that a good thing or a bad thing?)

Even better is that they've hired Eva (Sarah Bolger), a...film student? Documentarian? Professional camera-pointer-person? so that they have visual proof of all their hard work. 

But then bad things happen!  Oh no!  Somehow a big, bad pharmaceutical corporation gets wind of the Lazarus serum's awesome capabilities.  They swoop in and claim that a contract violation gives them the rights to everything and they immediately take everything out of the laboratory for personal use.  But it's ok, Frank has an idea! 

They sneak into the lab and attempt to resurrect another dog, figuring that if they can record it they'll prove they hold the intellectual property rights.  Too bad that wacky Zoe doesn't remember that metal is an excellent electrical conduit and the silly-willy goes and electrocutes herself! 

But don't worry, the Lazarus serum can bring her back to life!  Hooray!  (I mean, come on, the only negative signs the dog showed was a little bit of a super healing factor and overactive brain activity.  Nothing could possibly go wrong.) 

So yeah, that's the plot.  I'm not ruining anything because 85% of it was in the trailers.  So were a few key scenes, including Niko's death.  When there are only 4 people who could possibly die, showing one of their deaths in your trailer is a terrible idea. 

Plus what do I care about spoiling it?  I sincerely despised this film.  There were no scares, there was no attempt at anything clever, and the only decent acting was by Donald Glover.  Olivia Wilde had nothing to go on once her character 'came back from the dead' and Mark Duplass was asked to play an emotionless scientist.  So while I guess he did a good job on that score it's not like it made me any more invested into the film. 

Thankfully much of the 'tense' portions of the film take place in darkness and shadows, because it's painfully obvious that the special effects team had a budget of about $20.  The only good things I can say about The Lazarus Effect are that it makes me appreciate almost any other film that uses resurrection for horror purposes and I'm really glad there's no way this is making enough money for a sequel.