The Lazarus Effect (2015), directed by David Gelb, is a Blumhouse Productions/Lionsgate film which made its theatrical debut this past Friday, February 27th. If you’re a big moviegoer who enjoys seeing films in the theater, you might have noticed we’re in the midst of a horror dry spell. The Lazarus Effect is the first wide-release horror film to debut in theaters since The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2014), which debuted January 2nd. The extremely enticing trailers for The Lazarus Effect combined with the amount of time I’ve been waiting for a horror film to hit theaters, made for an immediate screening of the film; which to my dismay was somewhat of a letdown.
The film stars the very popular Olivia Wilde who’s known for several films such as Rush (2013), Tron: Legacy (2010), Alpha Dog (2006), and the popular television show House M.D. (2004). Wilde puts on a tasteful and believable performance as medical researcher who’s fiancée has made it his life’s work to create a serum which can bring the dead back to life. The opening scene features the medical research team testing their serum on a dog’s cadaver. When the serum fails to resurrect the dog, the audience learns of the awkward relationship between the main character Zoe (Olive Wilde) and her workaholic fiancée, Frank. The film portrays Zoe as notably patient and passive, as her marriage to fiancée Frank has been put off for three years, due to the time and money being put into the research.
Once the team begins to lose hope in the serum, there is a miraculous and successful attempt on the next dog’s cadaver. It is then, through a series of unfortunate events, that everything goes terribly wrong. When the main character (Zoe) dies in a freak accident, against the team’s wishes, her grieving fiancée decides to use the serum on her corpse. Once Zoe is resurrected, it’s clear that she has come back as someone or something different, something evil. The film ends up punishing each member of the research team one by one. The character of Clay, played by Evan Peters from American Horror Story (2014), provides some comic relief as the pothead who is ultimately killed by his smoking device. It almost seemed as if it were a Christian horror film, working as an allegory for anti-stem cell research with a hint of anti-drugs. The main message seemed to be that humans shall not play God.
The plot is fairly unoriginal and reminiscent of Stuart Gordon's vision of H.P Lovecraft’s cult classic, Re-animator (1985). Except, there is nothing over-the-top or truly entertaining about it. With a total run-time of 80 minutes, the film didn’t waste too much time getting the point. It was quite the bizarre experience; I never felt bored, but the film seemed to be over before it ever got interesting. There were a few effective shots of post-resurrection Zoe that were fairly aesthetically pleasing, yet I was never thrilled or scared. The Lazarus Effect could have been a fun horror film if it were executed differently. Unfortunately, this was an overall lackluster film.