That’s it, I’ve had enough. From here on out, if you put a jump scare in your movie, it’s an automatic C or lower.
“The Lazarus Effect” is the latest PG-13 horror flick to hit theaters, this time about a team of scientists who may have found a way bring people back from recent death. But when strange things start happening to the test subjects, they begin to wonder if they’ve awakened more than just the subject itself. With Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass playing the lead scientist couple the movie at least seems to have a bit more acting pedigree than most movies in this niche, but does it manage to use them wisely, or are they just relegated to a never ending procession of jump scares and other cheesy horror cliches? Can I say yes to both?
Look, I have to admit, the acting in this is not half bad. As mentioned Wilde and Duplass are quality talent, but the rest of the cast, including a wonderfully understated Donald Glover, and Evan Peters who you may remember as Quicksilver from the latest X-Men movie, they’re all great too. I found the performances to be convincing and effecting when they were given a chance. Plus, and this is huge for me, they used “found footage” in this appropriately! Based on the number of “in camera” shots, I’m even wondering if this was a converted found footage script, to which I say hurrah! That restraint allowed the actors to try to tell a genuine story and not a gimmick. A story, by the way, with a truly interesting concept and believable enough science that it could have felt like it might even happen in the real world. Oh except for the part where they tried to force it into a horror movie shell.
So frustrating right? When you lose sight of the fact that you are telling a story first and instead focus on fitting a predefined genre, this it what happens. You kill your movie. The aforementioned jump scares, the ridiculous lines, the over the top supernatural moments, the evil grins. It’s an overall silliness that comes from following a formula rather than following the story, and it keeps the audience from engaging in any meaningful way. I mean they were laughing at my screening, loudly, and often. I’m not sure that’s what they had in mind. Plus, when you deal in cliche, you aren’t giving the audience anything new to experience, and we can feel that lack of creativity dulling our experiencing. There could have been a beautiful theme here about dying and the afterlife, and the limitations of scientific discovery, but the flick was too busy squeezing in another run of the mill, character death, to be bothered to actually have any kind of solid point of view.
Overall, The Lazarus Effect, wastes it’s great cast and interesting concept, by being more focused on genre consistency than creative story telling. The resulting cliches and eye rolling ridiculousness drain any possible dramatic life from the experience with no chance of it’s grade resurrecting past a C.