Good horror movies seem to be a rarity these days. All too often the movie industry pumps out recycled rubbish that usually fails to deliver on its promise. In fact, there were approximately 50 horror movies released in 2014, which is a small number when you compare it to other movie genres. So why is it so hard to deliver a good scream? Have moviegoers become bored with overused horror clichés? Will we ever see another Exorcist? Who knows, maybe this is why we keep returning, hoping for that white-knuckle scare. You know, the kind of horrors that keep you up at night with your head tucked under the covers. Man, I really want that.
So, is The Lazarus Effect a white-knuckle ride? Um… no. The movie starts off with great potential but about twenty minutes in, the wheels fall off. This movie feels like an attempt to create a fresh approach to the Frankenstein narrative. The thought of what happens when someone is brought back to life after dying? That seems pretty scary right? So, why does this movie fail? For starters, the plot is a facsimile of many Hollywood horror flicks. Take three college kids, two adults, one greedy university/corporation, death and sprinkle in religious references and boom! You have the ingredients for a horror film. Don’t get me wrong I’m okay with redundancy in this genre if the end result is a good scare.
The Lazarus Effect has serious pacing issues, and pacing is paramount for a good horror movie. Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass play scientists who are looking for a way to regenerate life after death. In this search, they get a University grant for their medical research. Aiding the research are college interns played by Donald Glover and Evan Peters. To document the scientific tests, the team also recruits a young videographer played by Sarah Bolger. (At first, I was worried this might turn into another found footage movie.)
Once the team revives a dead dog with the serum, a hell breaks loose. Along the way, Olivia Wilde’s character becomes the focal point when she is accidently electrocuted. In death we see Dr. Frank (Mark Duplass) attempt to resurrect her with the mysterious serum. After this predictable event, we see Olivia Wilde become the antagonist. Once resurrected, Zoe (Wilde) becomes possessed and proceeds to destroy everything in her path.
Since The Lazarus Effect takes place in one location (laboratory) the limitations of this environment seem to constrain the possibilities for any suspense. As a result, everything feels forced and badly timed. Maybe the singular set piece and paper-thin story made Director David Gelb resort to cheap lighting effects and loud music to create tension. I don’t know. This movie doesn’t provide any suspense or horror and in my book, that’s pretty scary.