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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap77.78%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Lazarus Effect, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Could come back to life, but it dies here."
1 stars

There's a thing that sometimes happens where a movie under-performs but the name apparently has just enough value that whoever winds up with the rights makes a direct-to-video sequel, or two, or more, with tiny budgets that maybe allow one person from low in the original's cast to return and probably doesn't bring the original writers and directors back. But, perhaps, they do get the same guy to a few of them, he or she goes off in a new direction, and they develop a small but hard-core fanbase that tells you the sequels are really great and just ignore the first one. "The Lazarus Effect" has great potential along those lines, and it's a shame about the movie itself.

It actually starts well enough; we're introduced to Frank (Mark Duplass) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde), a pair of engaged scientists working on a process that would allow for patients who have flatlined to be revived much later than was previously the case. Working with them are Niko (Donald Glover), a longtime friend with an obvious crush on Zoe, and Clay (Evan Peters), an obnoxious-but-allegedly-brilliant younger colleague. Eva (Sarah Bolger), a student at the university hosting the researchers, is documenting the process. Today, they've just had an animal test succeed, but the revived dog is acting strange - and they are almost immediately shut down and locked out of their lab. But if they can reproduce their work...

That may not sound particularly promising, but a good cast can make the movie go down fairly easy during the set-up part. Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde make for unconventional choices for their character types - Duplass plays his driven genius as more casual and amiable than is often the case, and Wilde brings an approachable sort of confidence to the character whose job is to undermine the certainty a bit. They work well as a pair, smart, funny, and mostly at ease, enough to give a little push to later events. Donald Glover does a fair job as the guy one the outskirts of that relationship, Evan Peters adds a bit of manic energy, and Sarah Bolger gives Ava a little more personality than just being the pretty girl that the rest explains things to. Ray Wise shows up as an oily corporate type and makes you hope that Ray Wise is in more than one scene.

And then bad things start happening and it starts to seem like neither of the two credited writers really thought things through very much. The second half of the movie feels like they recognized all of the various places their premise could lead and were unable to choose between them. Without that sort of single clear path to follow, the action winds up taking tentative steps in multiple directions, and there's no room for originality in that. The audience winds up seeing what feels like a horror movie sampler, bits that we've seen a dozen times before, with a foe that displays generic horror-movie superpowers. There's not a scene or an idea that the audience hasn't seen done better before, both in terms of originality or with the sort of bloody commitment that this movie's PG-13 rating won't allow for.

It's a bummer, because the uncertainty works for a while. Dawson & Slater set up a situation where things can go in a very interesting direction as a bit of telepathy hints at there being no "right" side; it's unfortunate that the script never really dives into that rather than going for a straight arbitrarily-powerful villain attacking the others locked in a confined space. In another case of potential squandered, I'm sure some will roll their eyes at the moments where the perspective shifts to first-person, there's enough wit to how it's used to suggest that the folks involved know that producer Jason Blum has built a horror-movie factory on the back of found-footage movies and are willing to have some fun with it, especially when David Gelb - a man known for documentaries such as Jiro Dreams of Sushi - is at the helm. He knows the form well enough to do more than just occasionally dip in and out (or let something important happen in the background) like he does here.

Instead, things never rise to the level of being particularly original or clever, and the three big danglers at the end are probably the result of this sitting on the shelf and eventually cut into something just barely releasable (it has a 2013 copyright date on it). Still, wouldn't it be fun if Blumhouse hired someone who could twist those loose ends into a premise that could support a low-budget series of sequels, even if they're only connected to the original via Ray Wise cameos? That would at least be something good coming out of this mess.

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originally posted: 03/05/15 12:26:15
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User Comments

2/19/16 brian Nothing to offer but jump scares. IOW, nothing to offer. Just idiotic. 1 stars
9/27/15 mr.mike Would've been a fair episode of X-files. 2 stars
3/17/15 this is a great film great 5 stars
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  27-Feb-2015 (PG-13)
  DVD: 16-Jun-2015


  DVD: 16-Jun-2015

Directed by
  David Gelb

Written by
  Luke Dawson
  Jeremy Slater

  Evan Peters
  Olivia Wilde
  Mark Duplass
  Sarah Bolger
  Donald Glover
  Bruno Gunn

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