Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 6, 2015

The Critic's Corner

‘Lazarus Effect’ is D.O.A.

John 11 offers the apostle’s account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. While it no doubt took divine power to accomplish the miracle, I doubt even the Son of God could bring “The Lazarus Effect” back to life. The new horror film was D.O.A. when it arrived in theaters, and there will be no getting it off the gurney at this point.

I doubt even turning the movie into a drinking game would help. It’s that limply written, directed, and performed.

The story, such as it is: Medical researcher Frank, his fiancée Zoe, and their team have devised a way to revive the dead. After a successful, but unsanctioned, experiment on a lifeless animal, they prepare to make their work public. However, when their dean learns about what they’ve done, he shuts them down. Zoe is then killed during an attempt to recreate the experiment, leading Frank to test the process on her. Zoe is revived –  but comes back different.

Just how she’s different is never clear. She says she went to Hell and brought something evil back with her. (While dead, she relived the worst moment of her life  – when several people died in an apartment fire she started – over and over again.) But someone else on the team says the drug they use to bring the dead back to life unlocked something in Zoe’s brain that gave her physic powers. Unless I nodded off, the film never commits to either theory. Even the climax of the film seems to draw from both hypotheses, confusing matters more.

So, yeah, this movie is lame. Director David Gelb shot most of it in what looks like a handful of rooms in the lab, yet even with this limited geography, he failed to establish a sense of geography. I was never clear on how one room was connected to another.

It’s also unclear how Zoe is able to kill her friends without anyone else in the lab knowing. Maybe they didn’t know their way from room to room, either.

“The Lazarus Effect” is rated PG-13, which is unfortunate, because an R rating might have at least made audiences perk up during the killings. But no. Violence takes place off camera, with audio suggesting what’s taking place. How AMC can show the grisly dismemberment of zombies on “The Walking Dead,” which can be viewed by anyone with a TV, while horror film makers have to sanitize their creations to get the more marketable PG-13 rating is beyond me.

Anyway, I doubt the creatively bankrupt makers of “The Lazarus Effect” would have come up with anything interesting if they’d been given a green light to make a R rated movie anyway. Instead of building tension and fear through imaginative shot and editing choices, they try to scare viewers with cheap jump scares I could see coming a mile away, sudden loud noises, and long scenes of people looking for someone in the dark. You know, because no one has done those things before – ever.

Anyway, I’m hoping “The Lazarus Effect” is the last gasp in the worse January-February movie season I can remember. With the exception of “The Kingman” and a few Oscar hopefuls given only a limited release last year, there’s been next to no reason to go to the theater.

If you like the idea of a suspense thriller or horror movie exploring what happens when you bring people back from the dead, rent or stream “Flatliners” (1990). In it, a medical student played by Kiefer Sutherland persuades his fellow pupils to end his life and then resuscitate him before any permanent damage is done. Other characters follow his lead, and are forced to contend with the paranormal consequences of trespassing on the other side. It’s a good flick, slickly directed by Joel Schumacher (“Falling Down,” “The Lost Boys”).

As for “The Lazarus Effect,” save your time and money.

One star out of four. Rated PG -13 for intense sequences of violence, terror, and some sexual references. David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at dlaprad@hamiltoncountyherald.com.