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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 02.27.15] horror


I wish there was a recording somewhere of Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass agreeing to sign onto this project. It likely went something like this:

Wilde: It would be great to work together.

Duplass: Hey, I know a guy who knows a guy who knows Jason Blum. I'm sure he has a movie we can make.

Wilde: And I know a guy who can direct it. We should totally do this! It'll be fun!

And it does looks like Wilde and Duplass were having a good time. Actually, it looks like everyone involved with The Lazarus Effect, all five cast members, were having a good time. There's an ease between the actors that comes across but that is pretty much the only great thing about the movie that is not even close to a re-tread of Flatliners. Think of it more as Flatliners lite. Yeah, it's that mediocre.

Wilde and Duplass are Zoe and Frank, a pair of doctors playing god. They've developed a formula for a serum that delivered together with an electrical shock, can revive dead things but their initial testing has returned strange results: the serum causes uncommon brain activity. You see where this is going right? Humans using more than 10% of their brain... Didn't you watch Lucy?

When Zoe dies, Frank, seeing no other options, uses the serum on her. The Zoe that comes back is not the same as the Zoe that died. From here on in, The Lazarus Effect is exactly the same as any other mediocre possession/evil spirit movie. There are endless blackouts, attempted jump scares and Wilde moving stuff around with her mind.


As predictable and bland as The Lazarus Effect is, the movie does have some great stuff going for it. The set-up is actually really great, giving this ridiculously talented cast of actors the opportunity to share some great scenes together beyond screaming and looking terrified. There's bonafide character development going on in the first act. That said, when Zoe dies, everyone seems to fall apart. Duplass is laughably bad in terrified mode, as are Evan Peters and Donald Glover. Sarah Bolger is a great last girl. She screams like the best of them but by this point in the story, it didn't even matter anymore. The Lazarus Effect had gone from pretending to be scary to simply not caring. How else do you explain the mediocre fire effects?

The opening few minutes of The Lazarus Effect, along with the spectacular (and creepy) opening credit sequence, suggest good things to come that never materialize. There's nothing scary here - even the jump scares are ineffectual - and as much as I love great relationship drama and banter, they don't add anything to the unfolding "terror." What's worse, they've left the door wide open for a sequel.

The Lazarus Effect opens February 27.

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