‘The Lazarus Effect’ Raises Contrite Plot from the Grave, Fails to Follow Through

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Flickr Creative Commons

The concept of the “Lazarus Effect” is nothing new, but in the case of this movie, it is effectively presented. The film takes an overdone thriller/horror movie postulate and turns it into something new and creepy in the first half of the film. During the second half, the film goes downhill as it quickly unravels, revealing a lack of vision and technique that is needed to put away all of the large ideas the film presents. Yet somehow, despite killing its own propulsion with a perceived narrative and many plausible gaps, “The Lazarus Effect” still manages to be an extremely disturbing film.

“The Lazarus Effect” takes place in a Berkeley lab, where a group of young medical researchers are developing an experimental new serum that will prolong the neural activity of coma patients. The team is led by Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancé Zoe (Olivia Wilde). However, Frank is more married to his work then to her, and the two postpone their wedding once they get a research grant. Zoe is a good, Catholic girl, which means she dreams of getting married and has doubts about the “bringing things back from the dead” concept. Frank, on the other hand, is an impatient scientist, unwilling to harbor beliefs of an afterlife and is convinced that he is always correct.

The team brings a dead dog back to life, and the pup goes from playing and running to breaking out of its cage and haunting Zoe in her sleep. A final desperate attempt to bring another pup back from the dead results in Zoe getting electrocuted and killed. She is then injected with the serum and brought back to life, white as a ghost and drastically changed. When she rises from the dead, she returns with powers, such as telekinetic abilities and mind reading.

The cast of the film was remarkable and seemed to be connected, even as a team of science whiz kids. Sarah Bolger is the definite ‘scream queen’ of the film, whose character Eva is a documentary filmmaker. However, Olivia Wilde, is the real star of the film, portrays an authentically concerning horror movie villain.

"The Lazarus Effect" was directed by David Gelb, a documentary filmmaker, and he seemed skillfully versed in telling a story through the visual medium, as well as creating quality scares using visual manipulation. However, he lacked sequencing and connectivity. “The Lazarus Effect” drowns under the amount of concepts and ideas that come about during the film; it’s almost as if they were being thrown out too quickly to truly form a full theme. The film’s sense of cause and effect was completely out of whack, as well.

The script by Jeremy Slater and Luke Dawson is nothing new; it holds interest and offers a lot of potential, but overall is tiresome and inept.

Despite the lame script, lack of sequence and a plummeting second half of the film, “The Lazarus Effect” is still a pretty decent film. Olivia Wilde’s performance after being injected with the serum alone is a reason to go see this thriller.