There are some things we know we will get every movie year. Perhaps tops on that list are the mediocre and formulaic PG-13 horror flicks. Many of these aren’t terrible. They can be pretty entertaining despite their clichéd stories, rehashed scares and forgettable outcomes. Representing the Class of 2015 in this category is “The Lazarus Effect”. As with the majority of these films, “The Lazarus Effect” isn’t a bad movie. It simply does nothing original and leaves no real lasting effect.
The film was distributed by Relativity and it was a no-lose scenario. With a miniscule budget (overall estimates being from $3 million to $8 million tops) and an opening on over 2,600 screens, the film could have a mediocre box office run and still turn a pretty big profit. That’s what happened so financially the film was a success. But as a movie it falls right in line with so many other recent horror pictures. It follows popular trends and does nothing to differentiate itself.
The movie is basically a twist on the familiar ‘bring them back from the dead’ story angle. Still, it starts with a fairly interesting premise. Zoe (Olivia Wilde) and her fiance Frank (Mark Duplass) lead a group of medical research students in the development of a serum meant to assist coma patients. But their experiments wander into morally questionable grounds when they bring a dog back from the dead. Frank sees this as a monumental breakthrough even after the dog begins to show erratic and troublesome behavior.
But soon things go bad for the team and they find themselves sneaking into the lab to recreate their experiment. In the process Zoe is electrocuted and killed. Against better judgement a grief-stricken Dr. Frankenstein…errr Frank uses his serum on Zoe and as you can probably guess the results aren’t as planned. This spins the movie into scenes filled with dream sequences, manufactured jump scares, and a number of other predictable horror devices.
What is really unfortunate is the film has some effective and genuinely creepy moments. A handful of surprises and a few visual flairs actually work. Wilde certainly sells her part well and Duplass is quite good in his dramatic role. But they really don’t have a lot to work with. For all of its good creepiness there are also attempted scares that you anticipate from a mile away. The film begins clinging to these clichés which drains the second half of the movie of any good horror.
Director David Gelb is handed a fairly interesting idea but he doesn’t do much with it. He doesn’t add a twist of originality or anything fresh. He has a good and somewhat nostalgic concept and he has a couple of interesting lead actors. Again, he doesn’t make a terrible movie, but when you’re getting this types of run-of-the-mill horror flicks on a routine basis, you begin to yearn for something fresh. Alas “The Lazarus Effect” doesn’t provide enough of the freshness the genre desperately needs.
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS