There are some movies that are actively bad and others that are actively nothing. The Lazarus Effect falls in the later category. The tripping-over-its-own-feet script from Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater is a hodgepodge of horror movie tropes that fails to deviate from the path most traveled. In following that oh-so-familiar road to nothingness, they prove they came prepared without anything new to say, much less add to the genre.
The characters within Lazarus are fine, more too-well-defined horror cliches, and are notably bolstered by a quartet of compelling actors including Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Evan Peters and Danny Glover all giving the DOA material a faint jolt of life. As the bands research into coma patients and DMT begin to prove viable to reanimate animals from beyond the grave, the lazarus serum is born and a series of one-location events are set in motion.
Before long, the ragtag team of scientists – followed on camera by student documentarian Eva (Sarah Bolger) – are able to bring a pooch that had been put down back to life through the Frankensteinian power of electricity and potassium. Yay bananas. As its heart starts beating again, the dog’s aggression levels spike as does its ability to pull a Lucy and control 100% of its brain – whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. Psychic shit happens.
As you’ve probably gathered, the experiment goes even further awry and Olivia Wilde’s Zoe is killed by a surge of electricity because she (awwww) forgot to take off her engagement ring. Unable to resuscitate her, hubbie-to-be Frank (Duplass) slaps her on his science slab and demands the group assist in injecting her with their very much still-in-development serum. As one would anticipate from a mile away, his shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach to science has some nasty, horror-moviesque implications when Zoe wakes up and doesn’t quite feel like herself.
Up to this point, The Lazarus Effect has only committed the horror cardinal sin of, well, not being very scary. It has a few thing-appears-out-of-nowhere moments to surprise the crowd into a yelp or two but absolutely nothing actually scary or even worthy of note. But as the movie continues, it’s as if it actively tries to disarm its own internal sense of spookiness. Themes of science and the divine are explored in the context of hell but that plot-thread is all but abandoned before anything of worth comes from it. As for the inevitable kills, there is nothing imaginative or memorable in the slightest of ways, just a series of underwhelming, ashen disposals seemingly at the hands of a real pacifist .
The PG-13 horror movie hasn’t had a hit in a long while and with the MPAA stamping The Conjuring with a R-rating simply because it was deemed “too scary”, these all audience entries into the horror genre such as The Lazarus Effect and last year’s much worse Ouija make me question whether it’s even truly possible to have an effective PG-13 horror flick. Because if the bloodless, scareless nature of The Lazarus Effect serves as any indication, it surely doesn’t seem like it.
In the annals of horror past, the greats stand out in large part because of their inventive spirit. Something that Lazarus has almost none of. It’s Hollow Man (Hollow Woman) means Reanimator (ReanimateHer) and if the film didn’t have the good fortune of Duplass, Wilde and co. working for it, it would be even more dismissible and dopey. David Gelb was able to do something truly special within the documentary world with Jiro Dreams of Sushi making it just that much more of a shame to see him fail so acutely with his dull attempt.
Exiting the theater, one man turned to another and said, “It was alright but I can’t imagine paying $10 to see it” and that pretty much hits the nail on the head. At only 83 minutes, The Lazarus Effect is filmic premature ejaculation embodied, suffering from creative ED and hardly able to justify even half of its theatre asking price. For the real h-buffs, there’s nothing here worth seeing on the big screen so if you’re inevitably going to gobble it up, make sure you do so at home.