Arriving straight from the gates of hell, “The Lazarus Effect” wreaks havoc on God-fearing fans of well-crafted horror films. In Blumhouse Productions’ new film, a team of ambitious medical professionals find a way to bring the dead back to life via a serum code-named Lazarus. When lead researcher Zoe (Olivia Wilde) dies in a lab accident, the team uses Lazarus to bring her back. However, when Zoe returns with unusual abilities and a malevolent nature, the team begins to reap what they sow from their attempts at playing God.
The film seems to have been brought back from the dead itself given its sketchy production background. With no clear indication of when this movie was filmed it seems to have come from a time somewhere between Donald Glover’s transition into his Childish Gambino persona, Olivia Wilde’s time on “House” and when the black guy dying first in every horror film was the norm. “The Lazarus Effect” rocks an awesome cast, but is suppressed by a plot filled with randomness, a severe lack of characterization and scares one can see coming from a mile away.
The plot moves at the speed of a gazelle but with impaired motor functions. The runtime of the film is 83 minutes and instead of watching a clear and cohesive piece of cinema, the audience receives a plot riddled with more questions than answers. The entire first act and three-quarters of the second act are filled with a story that doesn’t have much to do with its later parts.
The plot jumps from a group of scientists trying to save their work from being stolen by a big corporation to fending off one of their own. The major antagonist of this film doesn’t reveal herself until halfway through the movie and even then her motives are questionable. Zoe’s character goes on a murderous rampage proclaiming: “You have no idea what you’ve done, but you will know,” but we never find out. Zoe’s reason for killing her colleagues is never explained. The goal of an antagonist is just as important as that of our protagonist and it would be helpful to know exactly what each character is fighting for.
The film finds itself trapped in what I dub the “30-minute crunch.” The “30-minute crunch” is when a horror film finds that it has too many characters alive when the movie is close to ending, so it has to kill most of them off really fast to leave our sole survivor as the only one left. This causes the deaths to seem rushed and it begs the question of how important a character really is if they could be dispatched so swiftly. Most of the time, it’s as if the characters didn’t need to be in the movie at all. Good horror movies know how to pace their character count on the screen and make each death important to the overall plot.
But, as much as this is an issue, the bigger issue lies with its characters (or lack thereof). The film treats its characters as “kill fodder,” which are characters who are there just for the sake of dying. The film tries to add some meaningful backstory with Niko (Donald Glover) having a crush on Zoe, and Zoe and Frank’s (Mark Duplass) relationship falling apart because of the project. But this all falls by the wayside, never to be seen past the first act. We don’t care about them so they can die and there is no emotional impact on the audience members.
What the film lacked in character and plot, it could have made up for in its scare factor, but didn’t. The film uses the question of what happens after death and the fear of hell as its subject matter. Unfortunately, the movie only relies on red herrings and jump scares to scare the audience. Once the score goes off and the camera gets close, you can tell something’s about to happen.
The only positive feature this film does have is that it doesn’t torture the audience for too long. “The Lazarus Effect” manages to make an interesting concept and an all-star cast irrelevant due to poor writing. The film is the antichrist of horror films, and horror fans should pray to God they aren’t punished by being forced to sit through this movie.
Rating: 0 stars