Dir: David Gelb
Writer(s): Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater
Cast: Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters, and Donald Glover
Synopsis: A group of medical students discover a way to bring dead patients back to life.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
If you could bring someone back from the dead? What if you knew they wouldn’t be the same? Would you? That’s what The Lazarus Effect tries to ask its audience. That is until it becomes a run-of-the-mill pseudo-supernatural slasher horror film. While the film does address these issues early on, it completely ignores them in the end of cheap scares and an ending that leaves you wondering, and not in the way you think.
The film follows Zoe (Wilde) and Frank (Duplass), leaders of a project trying to give people a second chance with something called the Lazarus Serum. The serum will bring the subject back to life – in this case, the subject we see at the start of the story is a dog – and after an accident in the lab, Frank and the team, Clay (Peters), Niko (Glover) and Eva (Bolger), duplicate the experiment to bring Zoe back from the dead. When Zoe comes back, everyone starts to suspect that Zoe isn’t acting like herself and maybe something could truly be wrong with her.
Surprisingly – or thankfully – The Lazarus Effect is just eighty-three minutes long, so everything moves incredibly fast and takes place majorly in the lab. The other thing is the film is low budget as it comes from one of Hollywood’s best micro-budget companies, Blumhouse Productions. Not saying the micro-budget hurts the film, director David Gelb does the best he can with what he has in terms of lighting and the cast.
Speaking of the cast, they are all pretty much likeable with the little time we have with them. We actually get to spend time with them before everything goes to wrong. Zoe and Frank were actually going to get married three years prior to the events of the film before they got a grant to start experimenting with the Lazarus Serum. Zoe is religious and Frank is a man of science, so the two do get into a conversation what happens when you die with Eva (Bolger), which brings up some of the questions of science vs. religion, but also the question of morality about brining someone back from the dead.
Evan Peters plays Clay, who is the comic relief of the film and plays the smart stoner of the group. Donald Glover plays Niko, who is never fully developed other than he has a crush on Zoe and has known her for a while. Sarah Bolger’s Eva is the outsider of the group as she comes in to document the group, and when everything goes wrong she starts to develop a little more as a character.
Like I mentioned, the film itself asks the question, what happens when you bring someone back to life? Will they be the same person or different? Better yet, what happens scientifically to the body? The Lazarus Effect does delve into these issues a bit for the first half of the film and even makes few solid points, but Zoe becomes Evil Zoe, it forgets all the science and becomes less interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a slasher film, but when a movie introduces some actual questions about morals or anything that’s worthwhile to ask, and then avoids it, I lose interest.
Since we spend some time with these characters we understand why Frank decides to use the Lazarus Serum on Zoe. He loves her and doesn’t want to lose her, so when he knows the Serum works at least for bringing someone back – after testing it on the dog we see early in the film and ads – we get it. Of course the question we the audience ask ourselves is, should he do it?
Again, the film balances itself on science, supernatural, religion – only briefly – and trope-filled horror elements. Sadly, by the end it follows more of the latter. Not saying it isn’t good, but after everything they set up at the beginning, it was a bit disheartening to see it go into what it became.
All in all, The Lazarus Effect asks some big questions, but doesn’t really answer them in a good way, if at all. The performances helps the film be more than other films about the same subject out there, it just sucks that it didn’t really reach its full potential.
The Lazarus Effect
3 out of 5