Last year’s Luc Besson-directed, Scarlett Johansson-starring adventure romp Lucy sold its premise on the (unfortunately still popular) myth that humans only use 10 percent of their brain. The Lazarus Effect attempts to tweak the premise – humans only use 10 percent of their brain at any given time, which is still untrue but at least sounds more realistic – but fails to do anything quite as fascinating as Lucy did in its finer moments. In spite of a cast filled with players far too strong for this material, The Lazarus Effect limps along as it tries to set up issues of ethics in
video game journalism scientific experimentation and conflicts between fact and faith as plot drivers, before devolving into a series of PG-13 scares.
Frank (Mark Duplass) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde) are researchers and an engaged couple experimenting with treatments for comatose patients. Through some unauthorized testing, they discover that they can bring dead subjects – initially, a dog – back to life. The only problem is that the drug, which is supposed to dissipate shortly after injection, stays in the body far longer. Well, that, and the dog suffers from a mixture of lethargy and aggression. When their project is taken over by a pharmaceutical company citing a breach of contract, Frank insists on replicating the experiment. During the experiment, Zoe is electrocuted. Frank, being the ethical scientist that he is, immediately decides to bring Zoe back from the dead.
And then things get really messy. Both in terms of on-screen action, and how everything is set up.
This film is the latest from Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Productions, which launched with the success of Paranormal Activity back in 2007. The films are made with incredibly tight budgets, which has turned many of the company’s films into financial successes, and some have even managed to use their tight budgets effectively. The Lazarus Effect is not one of those films. The majority of the film, which focuses on its five main characters almost exclusively, takes place in a basement lab that’s underlit, as could only happen in a horror flick. There are a handful of interesting scenes set inside Zoe’s childhood nightmares, but they’re deployed stingily. Otherwise, director David Gelb seems content relying on clichéd horror tropes. The only people who will be scared by what’s on screen are those who are actually only using 10 percent of their brain power.