by Mike Reistetter
“The Lazarus Effect” hit theaters this past month, marketed as the “must see” film of the horror genre in the earliest quarter of the 2015 calendar year.
In a conveniently short run time (83 minutes), “The Lazarus Effect” tells the story of a team of scientists who believe to have created a miracle serum that can restore brain function to deceased organisms.
This film’s bright spot overwhelmingly had to be its cast. Familiar television personalities such as indie filmmaker Mark Duplass (“The League”), Olivia Wilde (“House, M.D.”), Evan Peters (“American Horror Story”), Grammy-nominated Rapper/Comedian Childish Gambino (“Community”), and Sarah Bolger (“Once Upon a Time”) form an almost “too good to be true” young adult version of “The Breakfast Club,” relocating the principle setting to an experimental laboratory rather than a high school library.
This may be giving the film too much praise, however. Despite recruiting some of TV’s freshest and most likeable faces, “The Lazarus Effect” was guilty of handing implausible scenarios to each of its ill-fated characters. While most unsuccessful horror films lack character development and emotion, this film seemed to have difficulty executing its elaborately drawn concepts and theme. As a result of this tragic downfall, it wasted its tools by assigning overambitious and illogical explanations to be delivered by its characters.
Documentary filmmaker David Felb chose for his debut feature length film to direct a script penned by Jeremy Slater (“Fantastic Four”) and Luke Dawson (“Shutter”), knowing the risks involved. What he and viewers of “The Lazarus Effect” can agree upon, is that this film showed the abilities of a director to confidently direct a story using visual aid and an experienced cast. The imbalance in structure and the apparent disintegration of “cause-and-effect,” though, ultimately gains my stamp of “non-approval”.
Don’t get me wrong, I will watch this film if there is nothing else on TV, and I will even go as far as saying that I’d recommend it to my non film-buff friends, who would want to be entertained by something that I would certainly consider “outside-the-box.”
“The Lazarus Effect” is definitely unique in its ability to take actors with an established career in television and challenge them to reach beyond their own potentials in a confined setting atmosphere. But the efforts of an everyman-actor like Duplass was destined to be overshadowed by his professional and romantic partner, Olivia Wilde, whose character undergoes a dark and disturbing transformation after being injected with the “miracle” serum.
Wilde seemingly stepped out of her celebrity and fell into the situation of her character. She inadvertently administered her very own critique on the horror film genre. With a performance so outrageously enjoyable, it’s hard to imagine that she didn’t have any particularly satirical aim.
Simply put, this film showed promise for a new feature filmmaker, but at the end of the day, was carried by its exceptionally talented actors and actresses.