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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Lazarus Effect | Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, Donald Glover, Amy Aquino, Sarah Bolger | Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn

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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD


The Lazarus Effect

We've seen enough Hollywood movies like this to know when the scenario involves scientists messing with mother nature or playing God the outcome is always disastrous.

Once again that proves true in this sci fi horror tale from Blumhouse Productions, the company who gave us The Purge, Insidious and Sinister franchises.

The Lazarus Effect starts with an intriguing premise but fails to transcend the typical, overused formula. At a Berkeley university basement lab, research scientists, workaholic Dr. Frankenstein, oops, I mean Dr. Frank Walton (Mark Duplass) and his fiancee Dr. Zoe McConnell (Olivia Wilde) are diligently working on a serum that will bring the dead back to life. Their hope is to revive patients long enough to find a cure for what killed them, and says Frank, “give them a second chance that everyone deserves”. Assisting them on the project are a trio of college grads; vapor smoking genius Clay (Evan Peters, Quicksilver in "X-Men: Days of Future Past”), computer wiz Niko (Donald Glover) and a videographer Ava (Sara Bolger) who was brought in to document their work on camera.

After failing with a pig, a breakthrough comes when they resuscitate a dog named Rocky that was put down after going blind. The first thing noticed is that the canine's vision has been restored. Yet, it soon it becomes evident that something is not right when the pooch starts acting strange.  Rocky has no appetite, is listless, then suddenly out of nowhere, shows signs of Cujo-like aggression.

When the project is shut down and their materials are taken away by the greedy pharmaceutical corporation that funded the project and wants the rights to the serum, Frank, Zoe and their team decide to sneak into the lab to duplicate the experiment on another dog using a bag of serum that Zoe kept, just in case. However, things go terribly wrong when Zoe is electrocuted and dies after pulling the lever on the high voltage power switch.

Refusing to lose her, a desperate Frank takes matters into his own hands, making Zoe their first human test subject in an attempt to bring her back to life. The good news is that after injecting the serum into her temples along with a zap of electricity, Zoe comes back. The bad news is with her newly increased brain power she is turning into their worst nightmare, a demon-like creature capable of moving things with her mind, hearing other's thoughts, levitating and ultimately killing off people, one by one. Damaged by a tragic event as a child (which is never explored) she is forced to to relive the worst moment of her life over and over again in what has become her hell and engulfs anyone in her midst.
The screenplay by Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater borrow elements derivative of Paranormal Activity, The Shining, Pet Cemetary, Flatliners, Carrie, and the more recent Lucy among others. It doesn't help that director David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi) relies on cheap scare tactics that we've seen over and over again such as sneaking up from behind, lights that flicker, rooms going dark, and a creepy child standing alone in a long hallway. Rather than offering audiences something new and chilling, The Lazarus Effect unfolds as just another generic horror flick that misses the mark as an effective thriller.

Another problem is that several things makes no sense. For example, a security guard leaves his desk and disappears for some unknown reason. And, at one point, a character announces to his team that he has discovered they are being watched by the evil drug company, but no one ever shows up as all hell breaks loose.

I can't fault the cast, who do their best with what they are given. At only 83 minutes long, the Lazarus Effect ends with a cliffhanger, hinting that a sequel may be forthcoming. As far as I am concerned, if there is going to be another installment, it desperately needs a dose of originality injected into the script to bring this story back from the dead.


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