‘The Lazarus Effect’ Review: Give Back Your Dead!


Bringing the dead back to life is an irresistible prospect for movie scientists everywhere, none of whom (apparently) have ever actually watched a movie themselves. Because in one damn movie after another, a mad or at least observably eccentric practitioner of the scientific arts resurrects a corpse and then reaps unholy hell for their trouble, like man-eating zombies, killer cyborgs or at the very least what I can only imagine would be massive amount of paperwork.

It’s such a familiar concept now, that raising the dead always-always-ALWAYS leads to terror, that I’m not just surprised that movie scientists keep doing it, I’m also surprised that filmmakers keep giving it a shot as well. Brilliant work has been done with the Frankenstein subgenre and will probably continue to be done now and then, but inevitably audiences will also be forced to endure oppressively familiar pap like The Lazarus Effect, a new movie with practically nothing new about it.


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Here again we have a small team of well-meaning scientists – Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Donald Glover and Evan Peters – who discover the key to revitalizing perfectly good corpses. And once again, they find themselves zipping past the usual protocols and into human trials, inspired, of course, by the “unexpected” death of one of their own. And because nothing else could ever possibly happen, once again that newly-resurrected individual turns out to be an unstoppable hell beast who can’t resist the urge to murder everybody, mostly just because.

Not that The Lazarus Effect is a quote-unquote “bad” movie. Director David Gelb films it nicely enough, and his cast members (bless them all, every single one of them) are trying to bring this lifeless husk of a screenplay to life. It’s not hard to watch, but that’s not all that matters. The problem is that The Lazarus Effect is just impossibly rote, resorting to tried and, by now, more or less untrue “boo” scares. Gelb’s film is competent but only at delivering wholesale predictability, as opposed to anything reasonably new and intriguing.

And if the Frankenstein genre desperately needed anything, it’s something new and intriguing. The Lazarus Effect occasionally broaches the subject of new ideas, like the notion that death results in a cranial dump of psychotropic drugs which drives the newly dead insane, but they only lead us down even more familiar paths. It’s Re-Animator with a little bit of Flatliners and a whole lot of yawns. 

You stay away. The Lazarus Effect belongs dead.


William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline’s Film Channel and the host of The B-Movies Podcast and The Blue Movies Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.