As most modern horror films unfold, the primary thought that courses through the average viewer’s mind is just how many similarities exist between them and the classic ones that inspired them. In the case of The Lazarus Effect, we get not only a throwback to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, but also a feeble attempt at bringing the two together with a modern and scientifically foundational believability. As you could expect from an early-year horror release, the film doesn’t deliver much of what it tries to do, introducing a neat concept on the rift between life and death but then being squandered by a script that falls into sudden mediocrity.
In the film’s defense, I don’t think it’s terrible, because up until the descent into mediocrity, it’s not all that bad. Underlying the central story of two scientists (Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde) who, together with a small lab crew (Evan Peters, Donald Glover, Sarah Bolger), find success in a recent set of tests that involve a serum that can bring the dead back to life, is a sense of invention. By invention, I mean an inventive story. Over the course of the first two acts, the movie seems to have this interesting theme of what happens when we die. And the movie does retain this for a while, offering a fascinating view of hell and the afterlife; what that means for certain people and what it means for others.
Once the film moves past those interesting ideas, all we’re left to do is watch the mediocrity unfold. Olivia Wilde has some fun (I think) in the final act when she gets to go completely crazy. Mark Duplass is good in the role, bringing some sympathy to his character that impulsively acts without a hint of reason or thought. Evan Peters is good, but he seems to just be there for the purpose of being in any possible horror movie role that he can get. Other than that, the movie has nothing to work with. But I will give the movie props for not being filled with meaningless and tension deflating jump scares. I think I counted two, and in the current flood of horror movies, that’s hard to come by.
1 hr. 23 mins.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of horror violence, terror and some sexual references
Starring Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Donald Glover, Evan Peters, Sarah Bolger
Written by Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater
Directed by David Gelb