The Lazarus Effect (2015, 83 mins.)
Life beyond death has fascinated us humans forever, but we also try to prolong life for as long as we can. The two come together with the latest Blumhouse scarefest, The Lazarus Effect.
Engaged scientists Zoe (Olivia Wilde) and Frank (Mark Duplass), head a research team that has created a technique to bring people back from the brink of death with a serum and serious electrical charges. It is a revolutionary breakthrough that they have not quite mastered yet, with their lab animal trials succeeding in only a second or two of life.
The experiment finally works with the reanimation of a euthanized dog Rocky, and he is revived to a fully functioning but unsettlingly weird and progressively aggressive pet. The team is being watched by their university and a large pharmaceutical company, and once they hit pay dirt with Rocky, the entire operation is shut down, and their findings confiscated.
Zoe has saved some of the serum she created, and in order to prove the theory is theirs, they break into the lab before it is completely dismantled to recreated their hard work. When Zoe hits the power she is electrocuted and dies. Frank in his desperation, uses the technique on her, bringing her back as a changed and evil woman who will terrorize them in the secluded lab.
It’s a shame the script seemed rushed because this film had potential and was ultimately left unfinished. There could have been so much more: more discussion on what lies beyond death; more back story with Zoe and her childhood tragedy; more supernatural creatures; more budget, and more use of the talented supporting cast. Duplass was decent as Zoe’s scientifically driven fiancé, showing his dramatic acting chops well here (if you haven’t seen his film Safety Not Guaranteed, do it now!). Donald Glover as Niko and Evan Peters as Clay were smart additions to the cast and their motivations were clear, but Sarah Bolger’s Eva was far too ambiguous and wasn’t given time to grow. This film does prove that Wilde can do something other than the pretty love interest though. She sidesteps the predictably likeable Zoe by becoming a successfully menacing threat. It is a meaty role that would have had better impact if there was, as said previously, more.
Without giving away spoilers, the film leaves plenty of room for a sequel, but I suspect if it gets made, it will probably get the same low-budget treatment and go straight to video, unless the original cast gets a dose of that serum and agrees to come back (sorry, couldn’t resist).