Lots of big name stars got their start in D grade, cheap horror movies: Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl, even Leonardo Dicaprio. However it’s very rare to see an already accomplished and established star appear in a low budget horror movie, but apparently it still happens…and apparently it’s called “The Lazarus Effect.” The minute I saw the trailer for this film; I questioned why Olivia Wilde would do such a film and I also wondered why it had to be a PG-13 horror film of all types. Can Wilde’s star power save the film and raise it to cult status, or is it just another corpse that doesn’t need to be resurrected for a second viewing? Let’s find out. The story follows a group of researchers lead by engaged couple Frank (Mark Duplass) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde) who have recently created an experimental drug that can actually bring the dead back to life.
After successfully resurrecting a dead animal, the team’s success is cut short when their research and results are confiscated by their funding partners after crossing a few lines in their joint contract. Frank and the team try to sneak in and duplicate the experiment; only for a freak accident to claim the life of Zoe and forcing Frank to use the serum to desperately bring his love back. Zoe returns to the world of the living…but not without suffering a price that soon the whole team will experience. Sometimes the questions the characters ask in the story are bigger than the actual film itself; questions about life and death lead to some of philosophies greatest mysteries and they can lead to some AMAZING answers and stories that inspire countless.
The only thing amazing in “Lazarus Effect” is how amazingly predictable this movie is. Seriously, pretty much everything that happens in this movie can be seen a hundred miles away before they even get there; not even the few jump scares in here are capable of surprising us. There’s nothing particularly horrible or poorly done here it’s just…incredibly average and plays out in a way that you can pretty much foresee every event, death and development that occurs. That’s not to say this movie fails to generate fear and interest though. The debate between Frank and Zoe over what life after death is like was rather interesting and the actual “thing” Zoe becomes is rather shocking and not what I expected for this movie to ultimately be about.
There are some genuinely disturbing images in this film; the use of dark color schemes and a particularly chilling view of a fiery hallway successfully creeped me out as intended. The problem is once you realize this “dark force” Zoe has become is ultimately a black eyed “Limitless” “Lucy” figure; the rest of the movie plays out like a stack of dominoes: you know where everything is going to fall into place. The cast isn’t too bad it’s just they are given so LITTLE room to actually do or say anything to make them interesting or even memorable. Olivia Wilde is the headliner here and for good reason; she (not surprisingly) pulls the superior performance here; she’s genuinely spooky and effective as the heroine-turned-horror and she definitely saved the movie from being a total predictable disappointment.
“Lazarus Effect” never was a film that appeared to have anything going for it except Wilde’s name; so I shouldn’t really say I’m disappointed with a movie that never looked like it was going to be anything past average status. Even so, there were some neat ideas here and some creepy visuals and I do give it to Miss Wilde for giving it her all. Overall, “Lazarus Effect” was never destined for greatness but it certainly wouldn’t have hurt trying to put a little more life into an otherwise mediocre script. This film’s formula is clear as moonlight and there are no unearthly surprises to uncover, what you see tells you exactly what you’re going to get and it’s up to you if you want to experience that.