The Lazarus Effect

In retrospect I probably should have gone to the new Will Smith movie, but the previews really didn't make it seem all that exciting. So I gathered up my courage and went to a horror movie, which, as so often seems to happen these days, turned out to be not nearly as scary as I expected. I mean, it was scary while I was watching it, but it isn't the sort of scary that makes me think there's something evil under the bed for the next three or four nights.

It's more a sci-fi sort of scary, which apparently I can handle better. Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde (TRON: Legacy) play Frank and Zoe, an engaged couple who are doctors of some sort -- the movie's often a bit lacking in such details. But Zoe has developed a serum that encourages the growth of new neural pathways in the brain, and the two of them have a grant to study its usefulness in preventing brain degeneration in coma patients.

Their research has taken a slight turn somewhere, however, as they're now using it in experiments to bring animals back from the dead. Okay, maybe it's more than a slight turn, but it's not too far off, I guess. As Frank points out, it can help give doctors more time to bring a patient back after clinical death before brain damage starts to set in. Helping out with this project are two, um, tech guys, I guess, Clay and Niko (respectively, Evan Peters and Donald Glover, who's going to be in The Martian, which I'm looking forward to). Like I said, light on details.

Also long for the ride is Eva (Sarah Bolger of Once Upon a Time), who's there to make a video log of the tests. No one seems to know who arranged her presence, but they give her a non-disclosure agreement to sign and let her in anyway so they'll have someone to be suspicious of when things start to go wrong. And go wrong they do, right on cue, leading the group to attempt a late-night, secret re-creation of their experiments... which then goes even more wrong, leading to Zoe's death.

But hey, if you can bring a dog back to life, why not a human being, right? I know, it isn't exactly scientific, though to be fair most of the characters are extremely reluctant to go along. Frank is beyond insistent, however, and the inevitable happens.

Most of the movie is inevitable, really, which is a big part of the reason why it wasn't all that great. It was saved from utter awfulness, though, by some solid acting and a couple of interesting ideas -- none of which get explored nearly enough since the movie was only 83 minutes long, but at least they were there. For instance, Frank and Zoe have a conversation about near-death experiences that's neither disrespectful nor condescending, which doesn't sound all that exciting but which I suspect is actually pretty difficult to do. So it wasn't a total loss, but it wasn't a thrill a minute, either.

In short, it was like someone took one part Lucy and added three parts of a standard slasher flick, which is an interesting combination, but not very well executed, so only two and three-quarters out of five. The ending was also a little doubtful, though at least not as jarring as some I could mention. So in a way, this was kind of another failed experiment, but at least they're still trying.

Image: 
Zoe with the gadget they use for their tests. Looks like an eggbeater, huh?

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