The Lazarus Effect Movie Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Released by 20th Century Fox
Directed by David Gelb
Written by Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater
2015, 83 minutes, Rated PG-13
Blu-ray/DVD/VOD released on June 16th, 2015
Mark Duplass as Frank Walton
Olivia Wilde as Zoe McConnell
Sarah Bolger as Eva
Evan Peters as Clay
Donald Glover as Niko
Ray Wise as Mr. Wallace
What is one's motive when resurrecting the dead? In The Lazarus Effect, a team of doctors and their assistants perform unsanctioned experiments using "the Lazarus serum" on recently deceased dogs in hopes of restoring life to the animals. The reason for this, as quoted by Frank Walton (Mark Duplass), is "…to give healthcare professionals more time to do their jobs, to prolong that period to safely bring someone back, with no cognitive loss and no long term effects. It's about giving everyone that second chance they deserve." In a perfect world, man! Predictably, the utopian mantra soon comes to an end when humanity's love and greed clash.
From Frankenstein to Re-Animator, the idea behind The Lazarus Effect has been done on many occasions. It's hard to break new ground when entering 'resurrecting the dead for medical reasons' subject matter. The movie does not reinvigorate the subgenre, which is fine. What it successfully does is keep the attention of the viewer throughout the whole 83 minutes.
Through the first two acts, I was involved and entertained, stimulating reflections on the overarching ideas and themes running rampant here. The problem though is they are just touched upon, thus leaving one to ponder and make connections into 'real' life. This is something of a tossup. I don't know if this is lazy filmmaking or thought-provoking cinematic brilliance. On one side, there has to be a balance of 'preaching' through content, and the film shouldn't veer off into a soapbox exposition. But at the same time, I would have loved to see these concepts fleshed out into the plot more. Themes and tropes of religion, the soul/afterlife, playing God, morality and ethics, business and corporations, and scientific experimentation are touched on, but never fully indulged.
The third act of the film is where I began to slightly lose interest, though I did enjoy the final scenes. I yearned for more conversation about the 'bigger picture' stuff and spending more time and devotion to pothole-plotlines that could have been intertwined rather than being left empty and undone. One pleasant touch is the ending. When you expect a full-on bowl of closure, director David Gelb throws a little curveball to keep you thinking after The Lazarus Effect is finished.
There seems to be an exceptional balance of the 3.3 million dollar budget and casting. The whole film basically takes place in a laboratory and has minimal special effects. The dialogue and interactions between actors is smooth, convincing and fluent. Duplass and Wilde have believable onscreen chemistry as a husband and wife doctor team. Sarah Bolger, Donald Glover and Evan Peters are a solid group of supporting actors. The trio makes for assisting the doctors and bait for the kill count. The set design is first-rate and adds depth, with a modern update of Dr. Frankenstein's lab. There are a few nods to the classic novel and film here, so fans keep on the lookout.
Expect a brief cameo from Ray Wise. His voice and demeanor adds so much depth to his hollow character. Whether playing corporate Mr. Wallace, the devil from the short-lived television series Reaper, or Leland Palmer from Twin Peaks, Wise is always a pleasure to see on the screen-even if it is just for a few minutes.
Overall, The Lazarus Effect is nowhere near spectacular. It is an above average science/horror fiction movie, adding zilch to the reanimation subgenre. Without these actors, the film would be below average. Kudos to shining up a turd! Do not go out of your way to seek out this movie, but rather wait for it to fall into your lap via Netflix or on cable. This is a one-and-done, late-night flick. Anticipate some interesting dialogue, thought-provoking ideals and about a dozen jump scares, which averages one every ten minutes. Not bad for a 2015 mainstream horror movie.