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Entries in Lazarus Effect/The [2015] (1)

Friday
Feb272015

The Lazarus Effect (2015)

Plot Sematary

I'm not gonna do it. The Lazarus Effect is a bland, scare-free excuse for horror, but I won't spend several hundred words comparing it to a dozen similar movies--or even mention them by name. Hopefully, this review will take less time to read than it will to write.

Today, I choose to be positive, and would like to share highlights from the two minutes of original material that made David Gelb's film tolerable.

1. I've never seen a movie that co-stars the act of cutting to black. In the last ten minutes of this eighty-three minute exercise,* the screen goes dark nearly as many times. Sure, we're meant to quiver in our seats as the wrongfully resurrected scientist (Olivia Wilde) taunts and torments our tanktop-clad Final Girl (Sarah Bolger). But unless this is your first go-round with jump-scare thrillers, the effect will be less, "OMG! Where could she be hiding?!" than, "Should I find a manager?"

2. Gelb and screenwriters Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater have created one of the most interesting and chilling depictions of Hell that I've seen. Essentially, the damned are forced to relive the worst moment of their lives on an eternal loop. Wilde's character describes the experience as being a nightmare from which one never awakens. Hers involves a burning apartment building with people trapped behind locked doors, and the filmmakers repeatedly employ a slow tracking shot down a red, smoke-filled hallway. It's an eerie, effective motif that's completely undone once we learn why the cosmos employed this particular punishment.** 

3. I learned during the end credits (yes, I stayed) that "Dog Fabricator" is a job title.

The scariest part of The Lazarus Effect is that Gelb also shot 2011's engrossing and recognizably human documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I can't know for sure, of course, but I would bet the likes of Wilde, Donald Glover, and Mark Frickin' Duplass signed on thanks to that lovely calling card.

The joke's either on them or on us. Either way, I'm not laughing.

*That includes the opening and closing credits, by the way, and endless inserts of computer monitors and surveillance-camera footage.

**Spoiler: The rules of this movie's universe are out of whack, to the point of being arbitrary. It's not clear that little Zoe (Wilde) set the blaze intentionally, and she's spent the rest of her life trying to atone through helping mankind. Why couldn't she have, say, been given the ability to relive her best memory instead? I mean, outside of the fact that this is a horror movie.