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The Lazarus Effect
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The Lazarus Effect (2014)

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Plot Summary:
"The story centers on a research team that discovers a way to bring the dead to life. When the lead doctor’s daughter dies, she is given the serum, which leads to horrifying results."


Review by
Ryan McDonald
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@horrorasylum
Review Date: 16 October 2015 My Rating: out of 5

 

Doctors/lovers Mark Duplass and Oliva Wilde head up a research team at a local University, working on reviving brain cells (The team also includes Evan Peters, Donald Glover and documentarian Sarah Bolger). This naturally leads to reviving a dog. It proves successful in terms of re-animation, though some members of the team (mainly Bolger) believe the dog is exhibiting oddly erratic, 'Cujo'-esque behaviour (which wouldn’t have happened if they had chosen a Pug, they’re too dumb and happy to hurt anyone!). And that’s when their whole project gets shut down thanks to an anonymous call to higher-ups. All of their research ends up taken out of their hands by nasty corporate rep Ray Wise (in a one-scene cameo). The solution? A late-night break-in, and starting all over again. This time, however, they’ll record everything on camera. Unfortunately, it’s at this moment that the electricity in the building goes haywire and Wilde is electrocuted.

A distraught Duplass decides to use their already proven methods to revive his fiancé. It appears to work, however, even more so than the dog, Wilde starts to behave strangely…and violently. She also appears to have come back with the ability to use 90% of her brain all the time (Despite what 'Lucy' and 'Limitless' tell you, we have access to all 100% of our brain, just not all of it all of the time), making her seem super-human.

Lame 2015 blend of 'Flatliners', 'Pet Sematary', and a little 'Cujo' that somehow managed to gain the services of Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, and Evan Peters in the cast. Wilde is OK, but none of the three come up with anything remarkable, and neither do director David Gelb (who mostly comes from a documentary background) or his screenwriters Luke Dawson ('Shutter') & Jeremy Slater (2015’s infamous 'Fantastic Four'). It’s formulaic, distressingly dull, and not even remotely frightening. It is, however a bit smarter than 'Limitless' and 'Lucy' on that whole ‘10% of your brain’ nonsense, so I’ll give it that. It’s also a really slick-looking film thanks to cinematographer Michael Fimognari, with good camerawork. That doesn’t add up to a good film, however, and perhaps first-time fiction filmmaker Gelb would’ve done better to stick to the thing he knows.

The cast looks good on paper, but don’t really impress on screen. Mark Duplass (a long way from the excellent 'Safety Not Guaranteed') is mopey and low-key, Donald Glover makes no impression whatsoever, Evan Peters (the only thing in 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' that didn’t suck) is saddled with the awful ‘token stoner’ role, whilst Olivia Wilde tries her best in an impossible role. It’s definitely not her fault the film fails, though one wonders why she accepted the role at all. The characters here are all paper thin, the whole damn thing is over in what feels like a flash. It’s also a total waste of veteran Ray Wise, who only has one very short scene of little interest. He’s just there to help the (extremely flimsy) plot along. In just the first twenty minutes alone there’s way too many silly ‘Boo!’ moments, and it’s just incredibly mediocre overall. There’s a few interesting moments involving what happens to Wilde’s character, but a lot of it is extremely clichéd, too.

OVERALL SUMMARY
Tepid, flimsy 'Playing God' horror/thriller with a better than usual cast gone to waste on a premise that's as old as the hills. Damn good-looking, but not a good film at all. It makes 'Pet Sematary' and 'Flatliners' look like 'The Bride of Frankenstein'.



Reviewer: Steven Davies @braindeadsteve
Location:Luton, UK
Review Date: 16 October 2015 My Rating: out of 5

Blumhouse's latest horror offering 'The Lazarus Effect' boldly steps out somewhere between 'Flatliners' and 'Pet Semetary' and brings with it a whole host of supernatural tropes for us to feast on. I had been looking forward to this for some time and the trailer certainly had that 'Flatliners' feel to it. Ultimately it was a shame to see that this effort generally lacked in any real originality and it's over use of typical jump scares and lacklustre tension really had a negative impact on the whole viewing experience.

The storyline itself was straightforward enough but even by its conclusion and its unsatisfactory ending it was quite difficult to pinpoint exactly what the purpose of the story actually was. No sooner do we get drip fed the concept of religion and life after death we are then suddenly being led down a more scientifically based pathway of heightened senses and untapped brain activity. No sooner do the characters consider the moral aspects of their activities for us to ponder we are then sat wondering what’s up with the demonic dog. There’s plenty of opposing ideas here but perhaps too many.

There’s plenty of themes and questions raised by the movie however for the most part the story is a little muddled and often doesn’t seem to be quite clear as to what is the best element to focus on. The cast all-round were perfectly adequate although with three of the main cast being better known for their TV roles, with two of the male leads working predominantly in comedy, it was very difficult to try and separate them and accept them in these types of roles altogether. Perhaps it’s a question of general mis-casting or simply the fact that the script really wasn’t padded out with strong enough character development for the actors to sink their teeth into in the first place.

It’s quite difficult to watch ‘The Lazarus Effect’ without seeing the influences of numerous other science-based horror movies. Aside from the aforementioned ‘Flatliners’ there were times when I found myself thinking about ‘Hollow Man’ and ‘Splice’ for example. That’s not to say that there aren’t some glimpses of originality in the story. The storyline and concept itself is an interesting one but does seem bogged down by all the other problems with the movie. Much of the action takes place in the lab itself and gives it a rather ‘bottled’ feeling and something that would possibly work better as a one-off in an episodic supernatural horror series such as ‘The X-Files’ or ‘Supernatural’.

OVERALL SUMMARY
'The Lazarus Effect' pulls together an interesting cast all of whom are perfectly suited to their parts, even Mark Duplass (better known for starring in 'The League') continues to break away from his comedic background into more dramatic roles. It may be difficult to accept an on-screen beauty such as Olivia Wilde turning bad and sadly however the actual impact of the theme, the scares and the characters leave this one quite a way short.



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