The Lazarus Effect – 2015

Director David Gelb
Starring Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Donald Glover, Evan Peters, Sarah Bolger
Screenplay Luke Dawson, Jeremy Slater

The Lazarus Effect is an amazing accomplishment. It’s a miracle that a film that is this bad could get even a relatively small budget of 3.3 million, and then somehow translate that investment into over 10 times that amount. It could be proof that I took the wrong road out of college. I decided to work for a non-profit. Perhaps I should have opted for the road to shill.

The story is too simple. Some 30-year-old college kids get a grant for a project to create a serum – one can guess the name – designed to aid coma patients. Strangely enough, Lazarus instead develops into a way to bring the dead back to life. If you guess that this white, electro shocked mucous would keep everyone alive by the end of the film, you would be wrong.

The two lead medical researchers, Zoe (Wilde) and Frank (Duplass) are a couple who put off getting married once they got the grant. One of the two is a believer in Roman Catholic dogma, the other is an asshole about it. Wanna guess which one is portrayed by Duplass? So they both have challenges in that area, and, if that isn’t enough, Zoe is tormented by a dream she’s had ever since she was a child and her apartment building. Wanna guess why she’s being tormented?

Why God?

After the first dog is brought to life, strange things happen. The dog’s cataracts disappear from his eyes, big messes are made, growling happens, and someone likes to take the needle off of records being played. These things are supposed to derive tension from the audience. That they do not is due to a lack of film making skill, acting skill and writing skill. The subtlety in this film falls somewhere between Eddie Haskell and that guy at the funeral at Heathers who asked God why He had “to kill such hot snatch?”

While everyone enjoys the lull in the plot, the college – working for some company that took over the company that gave the grant – swoops in and takes their project away. Only they don’t prevent the team of researchers from getting access to everything they need to move forward with another dead dog. If you think this can only lead to a) the kids getting caught by the one security guard put in charge or b) everyone succeeds, and they make a perfected remedy to cure death, then you would be incorrect.

The rest of the film takes place in a confined, poorly lit, unimaginative set that is tiresome to look at and sucks all the drama out of the film. The acting is wooden throughout. Duplass, though, has a special, soft, rotted kind of wooden acting skill. He always comes across as the guy who bored with the party that he planned himself. Wilde gives it her best shot, but she is going to have to wait a little longer for her career to take off, especially now that Tron 3 has been shelved. Any credibility that Evan Peters accrued with his brilliant take on Quicksilver during the last X-Men film took a left turn into T.J. Miller country, and there is nothing but pot plants for miles every direction.

To say Gelb lacks talent as a director would be to take away from the lack of talent exhibited by authors Dawson and Slater. This teamwork of terrible manages to give you an amazing work where each coming moment is more terrible than the last. This should be the last work any of these guys do, unless you are optimistic that one can learn from such incredible failure. Unless, of course, that failure is matched with unreasonable success. So in that case, look forward to The Lazarus Effect 2 – It’s your fault.

(* out of *****)

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