The Lazarus Effect (2015)
Two doctors and two researchers have dedicated their lives to creating a serum that produces what they call The Lazarus Effect, bringing dead tissue back to life. I really wanted to like this movie because I was interested in the concept. This movie was shelved for nearly two years before its release. Unfortunately, it was not worth the wait.
The first half of the movie is a character study of engaged doctors Zoe (Olivia Wilde) and Frank (Mark Duplass), nerdy but lovable research assistant Clay (Evan Peters), and reserved research assistant Niko (Donald Glover), who is secretly in love with Zoe. There are virtually no scares in the first half except for an annoying number of quick jump startles, and a recurring nightmare that Zoe experiences that forces her to relive a traumatic fire she survived in her apartment building from when she was a little girl.
Working off of grant money at a university, the research team has spent three years putting their lives on hold to test the serum before it finally works and brings a deceased pig back to life. The doctors invite a student videographer Eva (Sarah Bolger) to capture their serum working on a deceased dog.
Once the university catches wind of what the research team has been doing, which has varied greatly from what the grant money is to be used for, they shut down the operation. For some reason the film makes you suspicious that Eva is the one who tattled, but later you find out that a large pharmaceutical company has been videotaping The Lazarus Effect and wants to take the serum for themselves, so it’s unclear as to why Eva is always seeming to be untrustworthy since it never amounts to anything.
Not wanting to lose their work, the team sneaks into the laboratory to have Eva film them using the serum one more time so that they can prove that the serum is their intellectual property. Because they are rushed, Zoe forgets to take off her engagement ring and is electrocuted to death when she flips the switch.
Desperate to save her and feeling guilty as he sees her engagement ring, Frank decides to use the serum to replicate The Lazarus Effect on Zoe. Everyone is against it because they have only just brought the dog back to life and it is displaying extreme signs of aggression, but ultimately they are convinced.
When Zoe comes back to life, she is at first in a state of shock, and then begins to realize that she has more control of her brain than everyone else. She is able to read minds and move objects using only mind control. A brain scan shows that she is able to use almost her entire brain at one time as opposed to the 10% that humans normally use. Soon she is using her new powers to manipulate everyone and kill them one by one for reasons unknown. As more time goes on, she appears to gain more power and become more evil, though we are not sure where the evil side of her has come from. Eva experiences the same nightmare that Zoe has (how does this happen? we never find out), and we eventually see that a young Zoe is carrying a set of matches, indicating that she is actually the one who started the fire.
What happens when you die is a subject that is debated between Zoe and Frank on more than one occasion towards the beginning of the film. They explain to Eva that right before you die, your brain is overloaded with the naturally produced drug DMT, which is why many people who have near-death experiences report seeing a light and hallucinate what they think is heaven or hell. This begs the question…did any of this really happen, or was this actually Zoe experiencing a bad trip before her death due to her guilt over starting the fire? Or was it just that she has truly been evil since she started that fire, and that she has finally accessed it now that she is able to utilize most of her brain? How does this all play into the conspiracy that a pharmaceutical company bought out the university to claim the rights to the serum? As the film ends, Zoe is lining up the people she has killed and getting them ready to inject with the serum…but why?
Jessica's Final Review
Olivia Wilde did a great job and Evan Peters is always one of my favorites, but the rest of the cast was overacting and basically miscast. The storyline had potential, but it just wasn’t that scary and left too many questions unanswered. I’m assuming they are setting it up for a sequel, but there really shouldn’t be one because this film ultimately fell flat.