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THE LAZARUS EFFECT (review)

lazarus_effectTHE LAZARUS EFFECT

Written by Luke Dawson & Jeremy Slater / Directed by David Gelb / Starring Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass & Evan Peters

Pharmaceutical Company Executive: There’s always a consequence for breaking the rules.

There may be a consequence for breaking the rules, but there is also a fine line between scary and silly. Regardless of what THE LAZARUS EFFECT was actually going for, this cautionary tale about the pitfalls of playing God unfortunately falls under the latter category in this cautionary tale about the pitfalls of playing God.

Mark Duplass (The Mindy Project) and Olivia Wilde (House MD) are Frank and Zoe, leaders of a team of researchers at a California university who have taken on a seemingly impossible project. With a lab full of dead animals to experiment on, the ambitious group has been working for years to find a way to bring the deceased back to life.

Cue the FLATLINERS references for the over-30 crowd.

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While Frank, Zoe and the rest of the team are successful in achieving their goal, their excitement is short-lived when a string of unexpected events cause their experiment to take a dark turn and they decide to repeat their success with the use of a human subject – Zoe.

Have we learned nothing from Mary Shelley? As expected, this act of cheating death doesn’t come without its price and the researchers soon find themselves trapped in the dead of night with an evil monster hell-bent on revenge on the loose.

Naturally, a simple (read: weak) plot in a film of this genre is almost always forgivable – if the desired overall effect is achieved through decent writing or, at the very least, some well-crafted creeps and scares. But director David Gelb (JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI) and his team are able to deliver neither. Their use of clichés, such as nightmares and tragic memories, comes off as flimsy and veiled attempts to make both the story and its characters more robust. Despite its best efforts, THE LAZARUS EFFECT simply fails to generate any kind of excitement or genuine chills.

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To be fair, Wilde does play the part of Zoe quite well, particularly in her evil incarnation. She’s got a great devilish stare that she summons more than once which, in a better film, could be rather terrifying. And there’s also a guest cameo by a horror movie icon, which is always a nice touch. Even when his character’s presence makes the plot even sillier.

On a final positive note, THE LAZARUS EFFECT does know when to call it quits. A mere 83 minutes in length, the story gets to the point in a reasonable hurry and doesn’t drag on interminably. Many a horror flick could stand to take a lesson from that.

2.5 sheep

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