Review 38: The Lazarus Effect (1.5/5)

The Lazarus Effect

Directed by David Gelb

Starring Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters, Donald Glover

Released on February 27, 2015

Running time 1h 23m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Horror

Okay, good intentions. A pair of scientists and three assistants have developed this serum, codename “Lazarus”, for usage on coma patients, but after an experimental test, they discover that they can revive the recent dead.

But, of course, this is a horror movie, so you KNOW that this is going to seriously backfire. One of the biggest rules of a horror movie is this: you NEVER tamper with the forces of the ethereal plane.

Our story features Drs. Frank Walton (Mark Duplass) and Zoe McConnell (Olivia Wilde) and their assistants Clay (Evan Peters – Max Cooperman from the Never Back Down duology {dammit}) and Niko (Donald Glover) hiring a new assistant, Eva (or is it Ava? I hear it pronounced as Ava in the movie) (Sarah Bolger). They film a successful experiment done on a recently deceased dog. Yay for them…but we know that this cannot end well. For example, the dog’s cataracts disappear. It loses its appetite. The serum, unlike what it was intended to do, remains in the dog’s brain, creating a series of new brain synapses. In one scene, it even becomes aggressive. Clay refers to the dog as “going Cujo”, breaking the unspoken rule that states that you do not refer to a better movie during your own.

Anyway, the company that has funded the experiments has been bought out by an eeeeeevil pharmaceutical corporation. The experiments are shut down, and everything associated with the project is confiscated. Those evil corporations! Always sticking their heads into where they don’t belong! Always stepping in at the last second and taking credit for stuff they didn’t do! Damn them! What an annoying and, for the most part, pointless anti-big-business bit.

The group breaks into the lab in an attempt to duplicate the experiment, having oh-so-conveniently had extra supplies on their person. During the attempt, GASP! Something goes wrong! Zoe is fatally electrocuted. Frank, OF COURSE, uses the serum to revive her. Of course the experiment initially appears to be a success, but the group soon realizes that OH NO! Something’s wrong! Zoe claims that, when she died, she went to Hell, which takes the form of one of her childhood memories. What happened in this memory, you may ask? Well, we learn this later, but I’ll tell you now. Zoe, as a child, witnessed her apartment building catch on fire with her neighbors trapped inside. This has caused recurring nightmares.

Zoe, seemingly out of nowhere, shows the effects of “Lazarus”. Her brain evolves incredibly rapidly, giving her the ability to use 100% of it at one time. This gives her the abilities of telekinesis and telepathy. It also causes her to become dangerously aggressive.

Zoe becomes kind of rapey, and attempts to force a kiss on Niko. After he rebuffs her, she telekinetically throws him into a closet and crushes it, killing him. Well, obviously, Niko was doomed from the start. He was the only black guy in the movie, so he was obviously meant to be cannon fodder.

One question I continued to ask myself was this: Why is this university-owned building completely empty? Isn’t there supposed to be class in session?

Anyway, after Zoe kills Niko, Clay demands that Zoe tell them where Niko is. In response, Zoe telekinetically shoves Clay’s e-cigarette into his windpipe, suffocating him. Good! Eva and Frank attempt to escape. Frank attempts to give Zoe a poison injection, but ultimately fails; Zoe sees through his plan and crushes his head offscreen.

We now enter the surprisingly tense climax. I know. I was surprised too when I actually felt some suspense. It was actually slightly scary. This instantly makes it that much better that The Messengers, The Apparition, and The Covenant, as it is now legitimately scary. It’s not very scary, but it’s still a little scary nonetheless.

Zoe injects the rest of the Lazarus serum into her brain, making her more powerful. She cuts the power to the entire building. Eva is left in the dark. Zoe finds Eva and shows her Zoe’s version of Hell, where it is revealed, in a very surprising twist, that the fire in Zoe’s apartment building was actually set by Zoe herself. Eva escapes and injects Zoe with a poison injection, presumably killing her.

The fire department arrives, but GASP! WHAT A TWIST! The fireman is actually Zoe, who kills Eva.

In an epilogue, the bodies of Frank, Clay, Niko, and Eva are shown. Zoe injects Frank with her own blood loaded with “Lazarus”, and Frank suddenly draws breath and jerks awake just before the screen cuts to black.

GASP! She’s…building an army…

This is what pissed me off about this movie: what could have been. It’s a pretty cool idea. Unfortunately, it squanders its opportunities on characters like Clay, Niko, and Eva, and horror clichés galore. And the movie is, surprisingly enough, phenomenally short, coming out to (including the bookend credits) only a measly hour and twenty-three minutes. But hey. Despite its unoriginal plot, it manages to at least try to do something with its ideas. Unfortunately, it’s just starting to get going when it abruptly ends.

But what ultimately breaks The Lazarus Effect is this: its scares. Scares are more than just tossing objects around, turning off the lights, making scary faces, and throwing around cheap jumpscares.

It’s not the worst horror film of the year, but it is incredibly predictable. Its plot is annoyingly lazy. This movie could have been great. It could have explored some new ideas. But it just filled in a paint-by-numbers plot.

It’s a huge pity.

Final verdict: 1.5 out of 5 stars.

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