The Lazarus Effect full movie review - An Above-Average Scary Chiller
The people who made "The Lazarus Effect" must have screened all the "Frankenstein" movies, "The Fury" (1978), "Pet Sematary" (1989), "Flatliners" (1990), "Carrie" (2013), and "Lucy" (2014) because they appropriate bits and pieces from each these movies.
This above-average but flawed horror chiller concerns the tragic consequences of bringing the dead back to life. Together with "Shutter" scenarist Luke Dawson and rookie writer Jeremy Slater, who is penning the new "Fantastic Four" reboot, freshman director David Gelb conjures up a sufficient number of screams and scary moments to keep things suspenseful despite a surplus of clichés. Meantime, Gelb and company know precisely when to plunge us abruptly into oblivion, blast us with soundtrack clamor, and arouse enough dread to induce goose bumps. Although they understand the psychology of scaring the shenanigans out of audiences, the filmmakers let the premise of their story unravel about a third of the way through and recover only during the last scene. Nevertheless, "The Lazarus Effect" will send a shiver up your spine. Surprisingly, Gelb and company have shunned blood and gore galore and taken the immaculate approach so that the worst of everything is left up to your own fertile imagination. Reportedly, Gelb and his producers sought a PG-13 rating over a grisly R-rating. Mind you, you won't have time to yawn since "The Lazarus Effect" boasts a meager running time of 83-minutes. It might be interesting to know what wound up on the cutting room floor because most Hollywood features usually run about ten minutes longer. "The Lazarus Effect" introduces us to a quintet of charismatic characters, shows them resurrecting a kaput canine, and then celebrating their success, before everything spirals out of control. These guys and gals rebound, improvise, but find themselves worse off than they were at the get-go. At that point, despite some chilling scenes where things go bump in the dark, this Lionsgate release degenerates into atmospheric but humdrum white-knuckler.
Things aren't faring well for two medical researchers at a California university. Dr. Frank Walton (Mark Duplass of "Zero Dark Thirty") and Zoe McConnell (Olivia Wilde of "Cowboys & Aliens") were supposed to exchange marital vows three years ago. Unfortunately, Frank has become obsessed with a project to give coma patients a second chance that has driven not only him but also their research associates to the brink. Accidentally, Frank and his team have managed to reanimate dead animals. They have brought back a pig as well as a dog. At this point, they can do no wrong, and even Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of them. Just when they are prepared to take their next momentous step, Frank gets called on the carpet for violating the fine print in his research contract. The President of the university where Frank and Zoe have been conducting their research notifies them that a major pharmaceutical corporation has bought out the company that funded Frank's research. This pharmaceutical company and their attorneys barge into Frank's lab and confiscate everything associated with his project. Essentially, this means that Frank and his team have forfeited their intellectual property rights to the serum they have engineered to help coma patients. Naturally, Frank and his team are far from happy about this cataclysm of events. Instead, they sneak back into their old university lab and try to duplicate what they did so that they can prove they created the serum.
Something goes dreadfully wrong when Zoe activates the electricity that will reanimate another canine carcass, and she electrocutes herself. Gelb and company never explain how Zoe zaps herself other than show her not taking off her jewelry before she closed the circuit. Earlier, when she operated the switch, Zoe made an elaborate ritual out of removing her ring and her crucifix. Nothing Frank attempts will revive Zoe, who lies lifeless on the floor. Frank's colleagues, Clay (Evan Peters of "Never Back Down"), Niko (Donald Glover of "Mystery Team") and project videographer Eva (Sarah Bolger of "The Spiderwick Chronicles") exhibit the same stunned reaction to this startling turn of events. They are not prepared for what happens next. Scooping up Zoe, Frank put her body on the laboratory table and conducts the experiment on his fiancée. Initially, Clay and his companions argue against such unethical behavior. Just when they are about to administer a second jolt to revive Zoe, they have to pause when a security guard making an impromptu inspection interrupts the procedure. Frantically, everybody scrambles for cover, but the guard notices nothing. Seconds before this suspenseful moment, Frank had draped a white sheet over Zoe. After the security guard traipses away, Frank is unnerved by the sight of Zoe sitting up on the table with the sheet clinging to her like a sinister veil.
Zoe's resurrection proves to be the climax of "The Lazarus Effect." After Frank removes the sheet, Zoe senses something is wrong. She looks different, and she performs feats hitherto impossible for her. Basically, Zoe possesses the power to read minds, complete another person's thoughts, and make objects move in ways that defy reality. Zoe's ability to unleash every bit of her brain power astonishes everybody. She becomes telekinetic like the two female protagonists in "Lucy" and "Carrie." Although it does not rely on any spectacular computer-generated imagery, "The Lazarus Effect" compensates with actress Olivia Wilde's devastating performance. She makes an awesome transition from a sympathetic lab researcher to a murderous dame who can levitate people and objects with ease. At the same time, Duplass makes a believable mad scientist who refuses to accept his fiancée's death as a done deal. The rest of the cast exists for Zoe to whittle down one-by-one in scenes geared to make you grimace. Anybody who smokes a battery powered cigarette will be amused to see how Zoe deploys it against its owner. Altogether, despite a predictable second-act and the set-up for a sequel, "The Lazarus Effect" musters enough moments to give you a case of the heebie jebbies