Horror movies are a means for directors to visit the dark recesses of their mind and craft a terrifying tale. Amidst the sea of mediocrity that is this genre, we do occasionally get a thriller that does its job. This weekend, Olivia Wilde leads the latest attempt to scare in a film titled the Lazarus Effect. After seeing numerous snippets of trailers, here is what you might
Expect: Another tale of possession, some usual scare tactics, ethical discussion, and of course questionable acting.
Here is what you get:
1. Despite what the trailer hinted at, The Lazarus Effect's story did not tread down the expected path. Yes, Olivia Wilde's character dies, in a somewhat only to be saved from death thanks to the Lazarus system. Rather than possession though, this miracle drug instead seems to have a side effect that can best be described as a rehash of the plot from Lucy (aka unlocking the brain's full potential). However, Olivia's character doesn't handle it quite as well, instead becoming a psychotic mess with unlimited power. Why does she go nuts? The answer is not the best explained, but involve a scarring memory and a fear of hell. If you're bored with this odd story, which I was, you might enjoy the challenge of picking out various movie references this movie holds, many in homage to Stephen King. There are times when this ambiguous tale is very rushed, most likely for more scare time, leaving out some necessary details and development this movie needs. Even the suspense is dulled by the rushed pace, especially in terms of the deaths occurring in the span of 15 minutes. Oh well at least the deaths were not too over the top or monotone as we see trending in horror movies these days. 2. Speaking of scares, this movie has a few tricks up its sleeves that might just give you a shock. Jump moments occur from the start, using various means to make one leap out of their skin or scream in bloody terror, as many fellow movie goers did. For me, the dead giveaways from the cinematography and absence of sound were more than enough to predict the next spook. Instead the scarier aspect is the use of darkness to make you squirm in uncomfortable dismay. While a college campus lab may not seem scary, the lights suddenly going out can make even the nicest place a living "hell". As things go bump in the dark, you might just get the sense of isolation, which for me was the factor that really got me on the edge of my seat. If that's not enough, perhaps an anthropomorphic dog may raise the hair on your skin. 3. Integrated in at least part of the story is the ethical dilemma about bringing someone back from the clutches of death. The goal of the Lazarus Project, like all ideas in the horror genre, was noble at first; to allow doctors to have more time to save people from death by bringing them back from the dead. While this goal seems rather counterintuitive, the best intentions once again go wrong. Nevertheless, one will get an ear full of familiar philosophical quotes like "It's morally wrong!" or "That was an animal and this is a human". Fortunately it is not too preachy, but most of us by now should understand not to play God or bad crap will happen. Most horror movies, and their fans, will not really care about the ethics, but instead care about the scares and kills. 4. Finally comes the acting, well no surprise that there is no Oscar winning performances here, but that doesn't mean they suck. Wilde was my favorite, primarily because her character spanned across the personality spectrum. At first she is an enthusiastic, upbeat scientist with some religion thrown in. After the incident, she does a complete 180 and becomes a terrifying psychopath, whose bipolar complex becomes her greatest weapon. She becomes almost soulless, her previous joy lost behind intense stares and laughable dialog. The other supporting actors play their parts well, though each of the guys is a simplistic, monoemotional tool that are merely canon fodder for Wilde's wrath. They provide some comic relief here and there, but otherwise nothing stood out for me. Sarah Bolger did impress this reviewer's attention, mainly because I liked her character. While not the most unique character, the pretty redhead had the best balance of the bunch. Her reactions were kept in check, and despite being the only nonscientist, she surprisingly was the only one to figure out the mystery. She was the character I was rooting for, and also very pretty to compliment Ms. Wilde's own beauty.
The Lazarus effect has some decent scare factor to it, and should give most a nice fill of terror for now. While not the most unique story, nor the most complete, there are enough qualities here to make it a good Netflix or Redbox rent. However, I can't say this is one of the best I have seen, nor can I recommend a trip to theater. With everything put in perspective, my scores for this movie are:
Thriller: 6.5 Movie Overall: 6.0
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