The Lazarus Effect

Posted by Joel Copling on February 26, 2015

There is a single moment in "The Lazarus Effect" that works as well as intended. It involves a dog, played by another who gives the single, most convincing canine performance I've seen in some time. This dog is named Ricky, and after he is resurrected from the dead by a serum derived from the DMT that rushes into one's brain upon death, our team of scientists headed by Frank (Mark Duplass) are forced to replicate the experiment with another dog's corpse. Now, the moment of which I spoke: In the seconds before the repeated experiment is begun, Ricky barks once. The bark is a loaded one: "Don't do to it what you just did to me, you idiots," it says; "Haven't you learned your lesson yet?"

And the point is that Frank, his fiancee Zoe (Olivia Wilde), and the other scientists on the team (played by Donald Glover, Sarah Bolger, and Evan Peters) clearly haven't learned their lesson. This is some dog, after all. Not only does it come back to life (a feat in itself, given the science involved is jumbled and clunky at best), but its cataracts are also healed. There are other side effects, too, such as extreme aggression, lack of appetite, a strange habit of staring you down, and disappearing and reappearing at an alarming rate (set to Sarah Schachner's shrill score, of course). And when a freak accident leaves Zoe dead and Frank with the decision to resurrect her, too--well, you can imagine how well that goes.

The stuff with the dog is actually pretty effective, ignoring that score for a moment, but then "The Lazarus Effect" has to go somewhere else with its central conceit. At 83 minutes, the film is at least short, but nearly all of the plot material considered relevant is stuffed into the final half-hour. And that half-hour is a jumble of flickering lights, jump-scare theatrics, and a strange, clunky, inexplicable dive into unreality that confuses its audience and, more than likely, itself in whether the outcome takes place in the past, the present, or in some psychic underworld. Worse, the denouement complicates the issue even further. "The Lazarus Effect" has moments of startling ingenuity near the beginning, but by the end, it's merely lazy, jumbled nonsense.

Film Information

Olivia Wilde (Zoe), Mark Duplass (Frank), Donald Glover (Niko), Sarah Bolger (Eva), Evan Peters (Clay).

Directed by David Gelb and written by Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater.

Rated PG-13 (intense horror violence, terror, sexual references).

83 minutes.

Released on February 27, 2015.