THE LAZARUS EFFECT (2015)
Directed by David Gelb
A group of scientist researchers discover a formula to bring back the dead. Naming it Lazarus, they test it on a deceased dog, successfully bringing it back to life. Despite the dog showing a strange case of enhanced neurological patterns, the scientists, led by Frank and Zoe, have achieved the unthinkable. When the head of the university and the funding company get wind of their unsanctioned tests, they quickly shut down their operation to claim owndership of the Lazarus formula themselves. Realising all of their years of research and hard work could be in jeopardy, the scientists decide to replicate and record the experiment, to show to the world they are the pioneers of the resurrection serum. When the duplicate experiment goes horribly wrong, a distraught Frank foolishly uses the Lazarus formula to resurrect a fellow human for the first time ever with nightmarish consequences.
Sci-fi horror thriller THE LAZARUS EFFECT kicks off in an interesting fashion, focusing on the scientists and their unsanctioned experiments. Noticing that the dog they resurrected is displaying abnormal brain function, I thought that the filmmakers had decided to take the story down an alternative route such as Pet Sematary meets Limitless. Unfortunately, once they try it on a human subject, the film slips into your average possession film and ruins any imaginative direction that they could have gone in. When this happens, the films focuses on the typical survival aspect as well as incorporating a vague narrative on what happens after you die and whether mistakes from the past can ever be forgiven when you reach the pearly gates.
The first half of the film is quite fast moving and entertaining as the pace never relents. The experiments the group conduct are genuinely interesting to watch and suck you into the story of what these people are trying to achieve. There’s even a subplot of a struggling relationship between Frank (Mark Duplass) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde) with the research project getting in the way of their future marriage, whilst fellow researcher Niko (Donald Glover) secretly harbours feelings for Zoe. Character Clay (Evan Peters) provides the laughs and strokes of genius whilst newbie Ava (Sarah Bolger) is introduced to the fold to record their research on videocamera though her presence seems convenient to fit a plot point.
Early on in THE LAZARUS EFFECT there’s some genuinely creepy moments that involve the resurrected dog Rocky. Kudos to his trainer because the way he stares blankly at the characters and creeps up on scientist Zoe really makes for a tense and frightening scenario. Unfortunately they ditch the dog for jump scares and seen-it-all-before possession set pieces and nightmare sequences which could belong to any old horror movie. Only a scene involving a locker later on in the film evokes any semblance of unease that the film initiated at the beginning.
Despite some great performances and a strong opening, THE LAZARUS EFFECT just becomes another generic possession horror film and offers very little to satisfy the horror or sci-fi fan. If it had stuck to its guns and continued with its first plot idea instead of merging two genres together, I really think it could have been a better movie.