The Lazarus Effect

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The first half of this movie was a lot of fun. The second half…not so much.

It was nice to see two good actors (Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde) in the leads, and totally commit to this sci-fi horror flick.

The premise might not be the most original. You get that Flatliners and Pet Sematary story of bringing the dead back to life and the ramifications of that.

The filmmakers set up this scenario in an interesting fashion. The doctors had a few conversations about life after death, and it gets the audience thinking. Yet once the animals and human get brought back, they’re content to throw those questions (and people) out the window.

When the dog Rocky (played by the brilliant canine “Cato”) is brought back, it’s fascinating. It’s easily the most lethargic dog you’ll ever see, and I can’t help wonder how they got that reaction from him. My friend Rich Singley said it had to have been drugged, but who knows.

The way the tension slowly rises as we watch the dog creep around the lab was perfect. Older people will wonder if it’s going to turn into Cujo. Younger people might think of the movie Splice (especially since the two scientists bring the dog home with them). One scene with that dog is such a creepy visual, it made me so much more disappointed when the movie couldn’t keep that going. It became a predictable, by-the-numbers horror film, that needed a few more good scares.

When the medical research team finds out they’re being canned and all their research is basically being stolen from them, they panic. You see, they were given a grant to investigate neural decay in coma patients, not bring dead animals back to life. Their company sees a way they can take all this information and make a fortune. That doesn’t sit well with this group, who break back into the lab to recreate their experiments so they can get full credit. That is when things go wrong.

When Zoe (Olivia Wilde) gets electrocuted during this, the only way to bring her back to life is…yep. She’s injected with the serum they’ve created, and she turns all Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) on them. You see, she can now use all of her brain. And somewhere in that brain, lurks a little bit of evil. Especially since when she died, she’s convinced she went to Hell.

It was a lot more interesting when Kevin Bacon (who also starred in Flatliners, but what movie hasn’t he been in?), went down a similar path in Hollow Man. The special effects in that were cool, and although it also didn’t have many scares, it was fun watching him slowly turn evil.

Zoe has great facial expressions, and the camera hangs on her as she has an evil stare or two, but it seems a few better placed edits would’ve added to the creep factor.

There were too many goofy scenes we’ve seen in other horror films: levitation, eyes that are all black, and flickering lights.

The only previous picture I know from director David Gelb is the well-received (but rather boring) Jiro Dreams of Sushi. This movie will certainly make a lot more money, as there are many fans of horror out there. It’s just a shame this couldn’t have been as good as the first 40 minutes were.

While leaving the screening (slight spoiler alert), many felt the ending will lead to sequels being made. I didn’t feel that was the case at all. Of course, if the movie makes $300 million, they’ll certainly consider it.

This gets 2 stars out of 5.

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