06th Aug2015

‘The Lazarus Effect’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters, Donald Glover, Ray Wise, Scott Sheldon, Emily Kelavos | Written by Luke Dawson, Jeremy Slater | Directed by David Gelb

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This fear-filled Flatliners, for that’s essentially what The Lazarus Effect is – a horror take on Joel Schumacher’s classic “scientists play god” movie – ups the ante on Schumacher’s film, showing exactly what can happen when science messes with the forces of nature and in particular life and death…

The narrative debut of documentary director David Gelb, The Lazarus Effect follows a team of researchers who believe they’ve discovered a serum that could resurrect the recently deceased. But before they’re able to reveal their breakthrough to the scientific community, they get shut down accused of playing God. So they go rogue, attempting to recreate their experiment after hours, but when one of their number dies after accidentally being electrocuted, all hell breaks loose. Literally.

Featuring a wealth of familiar faces – including Mark Duplass, fresh from his turn in horror film Creep (it would seem Duplass has switched mumblecore for terror given his recent career choices), Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy), Evan Peters (X-Men: DOFP), actor and rapper Donald Glover (TV’s Community), and Sarah Bolger (TV’s Once Upon a Time)The Lazarus Effect is, frankly, nothing we haven’t seen before. However, like many a Blumhouse production, the film overcomes any feelings of over-familiarity through some slick production – which is typical of this particular studios efforts, no matter the budget or the subject matter; and two fantastic performances from the films female leads: Olivia Wilde as Zoe and Sarah Bolger as the new girl of the group Eva.

That’s not to say The Lazarus Effect doesn’t have issues. For one, its obvious that Wilde’s character Zoe is behind everything that’s going on but it takes an incident happening before their very eyes for anyone to actually realise. Of course by then its too late. That’s one of a number of dumb actions made by the films cast, which belies the fact that this team is supoosed to be a group of scientists who’ve made massive scientific breakthroughs! It’s Duplass’ lead scientist Frank – husband of the undead/possessed/whatever Zoe – who is this films token massive idiot, causing his fiance to die by running the harmful experiment after hours and THEN resurrecting her. Frankly he deserves everything he gets… and then some.

Unfortunately it only gets worse as the film goes on and once Zoe’s “situation” is fully revealed to the rest of the researchers, The Lazarus Effect forgoes any ideas of pseudoscience and the more over-arching themes of the human soul it so righteously discussed in the opening third of the film and turns into your typical haunted house – or in this case haunted science lab – movie, with only some superbly creepy effects work (pictured above) offering any highlight as the film ends.

By the time the credits roll I couldn’t help but feel this Blumhouse production has solidifed my opinion that this studio, once a beacon of fresh horror tales, is now nothing more than a production line, fear-factory, churning out films that will appeal to the lowest common denominator, i.e. teenagers looking for their next “scary movie”. It’s Dimension Films all over again.

** 2/5

The Lazarus Effect is out now on VOD (iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play etc.) in the US now. The film has its UK premiere on Monday August 31st as part of this years London Film4 Frightfest.

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