Bringing the dead back to life has been the subject of many horror films, from the days of classic cinema with Frankenstein (1931) to more contemporary explorations with Flatliners (1990). No matter who undertakes the experiment, it’s usually meant for the betterment of mankind, though, as we’ve so often seen, when one plays at being God, there is almost always a catastrophic result (usually in the form of a monster running amok).
“The Lazarus Effect” is the latest in a long line of such films that seeks to continue the work of its predecessors by attempting to find the secret to restoring life. The film tells the story of a group of scientists, headed by Frank (Mark Duplass) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde), who have created a serum that they believe will help bring the dead back to life. They successfully perform the experiment on a dog, but there are some strange side effects, such as increased brain activity and loss of appetite. Meanwhile, the university they are working at gets wind of their experiment and has it shut down, so in order to get credit for their work, they decide to break into the lab and repeat the experiment. Unfortunately, this results in Zoe being electrocuted to death, but that’s hardly about to stop those who have seemingly conquered it.
“The Lazarus Effect” is one of those horror films that starts off as so many often do, with a little medical experiment where, in the heads of those conducting it, nothing could possibly go wrong. The audience, of course, already knows that something has to go terribly wrong at some point, for why else would we be watching if everything went perfectly according to plan? The problem is, instead of taking the plot into an interesting area of exploration, one that goes deeper into the themes and morality issues that come with the territory, we get a horror film that merely gets less and less intelligent as it goes along.
This results in the audience being a step or two ahead of the characters, which subsequently forces us to watch as they make one wrong move after another, followed by the obvious consequences thereof. Eventually the film loses its last bit of cohesion in the final 30 minutes, where it doesn’t even try to make sense out of the resurrected Zoe pulling another character into a recurring dream she’s been having for a long time. However, by this point, it hardly seems to matter as we’ve had no reason to invest anything in this plot or these characters, so as it continues to fly apart at the seams, we merely watch as the train wreck continues. By the end, all you can really do is appreciate the irony of how a film about restoring life can be so dead on its feet.
“The Lazarus Effect” comes to Blu-ray in a 2:40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. Despite it mostly taking place in the dark laboratory, the image is crystal clear and sharp throughout the entire film, with no trace of fuzziness to be found. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is equally outstanding, presenting all sound elements in a loud and clear manner. Overall, the film has been given exceptional treatment to ensure that you have the best experience possible.
Creating Fear: The Making of The Lazarus Effect: An interesting featurette that has the cast and crew discussing various areas of the film, including the story and characters. Worth a look.
Playing God: The Moral Dilemma: A brief look at the moral issues behind bringing the dead back to life. Unfortunately it’s a rather superficial look at the debate, so it’s not particularly worth watching.
Deleted/Extended Scenes: Extra bits of the film that merely remind you of how it could have been longer.
For all its talk about bringing life back to animals and humans, “The Lazarus Effect” simply doesn’t have any to spare for itself, leaving us with a cliché-filled horror film that would rather go for cheap, ineffective scares instead of exploring far more interesting avenues. In fact, when all is said and done, the high point of the entire production ends up being its brief 77-minute runtime, so even though the film collapses completely by the end, at the very least you don’t have to wait too long to start to forget it.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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