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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Lazarus Effect movie review: flatlined horror

The Lazarus Effect red light

This is a remarkably inert movie: unscary, unexciting, and so obvious that it announces how obvious it is going to be in advance.
I’m “biast” (pro): like Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Do you need an unacknowledged remake of Flatliners with a dash of Lucy tossed in to avoid a copyright-infringement lawsuit? Of course you don’t, and certainly not when The Lazarus Effect makes both those other flicks look like masterful and nuanced explorations of human spirituality and potential. Frank (Mark Duplass: Tammy) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde: Her) are corporate-backed university-based medical researchers who, in an “unsanctioned experiment,” appear to have discovered a way to bring animals back from the dead… although their first subject, a golden retriever, comes back “a little weird.” You knew that would be the case. And if you guessed that it was only a matter of time before these mad scientists tried their process on themselves, you would also be correct: when an accident in the lab electrocutes Zoe, Frank brings her back, and her “little weirdness” involves telekinesis, mind-reading, and other “crazy psychic shit,” because apparently that’s cool and exciting, storywise. Except it isn’t. This is a remarkably inert movie: unscary, unexciting, and so obvious that it announces how obvious it is going to be in advance. Free advice for screenwriters: If you have a character say something like, “This is gonna turn out just like that one scary movie!” the unexpected thing would be for your movie to not turn out that way. And when someone says, “If we’re gonna be asking big questions” — in this case, about possible life after death — “we have to be ready for the answers,” your movie should probably offer some intriguing answers instead of random nasty meanness.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of The Lazarus Effect for its representation of girls and women.

red light 1 star

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The Lazarus Effect (2015)
US/Can release: Feb 27 2015
UK/Ire release: direct to VOD

MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense sequences of horror violence, terror and some sexual references
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, horror, threat)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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