For centuries, people have been fascinated with death. In The Lazarus Effect, a team of scientists doing research at a California university have discovered a serum that can possibly bring someone back from the dead. The team manages to bring a dog back to life using the Lazarus serum, with some interesting side effects. Unfortunately, the grant they had for their research did not include research into bringing people back from the dead. The pharmaceutical company that provided their funding comes in to confiscate all of their research and equipment. The team decides the only thing they can do now is to sneak into the lab and try to replicate the experiment on film, as this would provide the necessary proof of their invention. There is an accident during the experiment, killing Zoe (played by Olivia Wilde). In a state of panic and sadness, the team decides to bring Zoe back with the serum. They succeed, but they got a lot more than they expected by bringing back a human.
There are two aspects of this film that are incredibly well done. One aspect is the slow burn of the film. The story is done in such a way that the odd things that happen start out small and then gradually snowball into something even more dangerous and horrifying. Another very successful aspect is how they limit your vision to make scenes even scarier. They did a great job of using flashing lights and limiting your view to one angle to make the scares even more effective. Throughout the more terrifying scenes the film keeps you tense and gives quite a few good scares.
There is only really one thing about this movie that bugged me. Before all the scary stuff happens, they make quite a big deal about the pharmaceutical company that comes in to take their research. They make such a big deal of it, that you expect the company to play a more important role. After that initial introduction and some talk about the company later on, there is nothing. I thought maybe they would come in towards the end or something but never did. It seems silly to make it seem like the company has such a large role but then never have them make another appearance. Granted, the company needed to be the catalyst for what would become Zoe’s fate, but it still bugs me.
Now, the idea of bringing a person back to life is not the most original as far as a horror movie goes. What is interesting about this one is that it, at least in my opinion, leaves it up to you to figure out why Zoe came back differently. One thing we know for sure is that when she died she spent what was an hour to us, but years to Zoe, reliving her absolute worst memory. It is assumed that this is what Hell is. There seem to be three different possibilities that explain what happened. You may disagree or come up with a different theory, but this is what I think. My first theory: the years Zoe spent being tortured by reliving her worst memory made her go insane and turn evil. The combination of being an insane evil person, as well as having the Lazarus serum altering her brain, made her the perfect killing machine. My second theory: when Zoe was brought back, something from Hell “piggybacked” with her to our world. The main reason this seems plausible is that she seems to have two distinct personalities that she switches between. Also, in the scene where the mirror she is looking into breaks there appears to be Zoe’s own reflection and a reflection of a more evil version of her. My third theory: the Lazarus serum itself made her evil. It is an entirely new and untested drug that very well could effect the brain in such a way that it turns you into a psychopath with many paranormal abilities. In all honesty, I can’t decide which theory makes the most sense.
Another thing that didn’t make sense to me has to do with the end of the movie. At one point the dog that was brought back to life, and seemed to have been experiencing the same things as Zoe, Zoe kills the dog (or at least you assume so, it is never actually shown). After Zoe has gone through and murdered all of her friends it seems that that is the end. Surprisingly, the last thing you see is the dead bodies lined up and Zoe starting to bring them back with the Lazarus serum. It seems likely that Zoe is trying to create more evil beings like herself. My one problem is this; why did she kill the dog, who was like her, if she intends to bring back all the people she just killed to be like her? It really annoyed me, and I wish someone would explain this to me. Granted, evil Zoe and the dog did not seem to get along, but I’m still annoyed.
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While the storyline is not the most original, this film still gives a few good scares. At one scene I almost jumped out of my seat. The cast is amazing and the acting is fairly well done. Olivia Wilde does an especially good job of easily switching between her human personality and her evil one. This is the kind of movie that you have to go in just expecting it to be a fun horror flick that will make you jump at least a couple times. There are definitely flaws, but the only things that truly makes me not like this movie as much as I would have is the part of the story that involves the pharmaceutical company and the unanswered questions I have about certain points of the plot. I would still recommend going to see the movie. Everything is always scarier on the big screen.
OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10