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The Independent Critic

Evan Peters, Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger
David Gelb
Jeremy Slater, Luke Dawson
Rated PG-13
83 Mins.
Relativity Media

 "The Lazarus Effect" is Dead on Arrival 
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Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancee' Zoe (Olivia Wilde) have achieved the unimaginable - bringing the dead back to life. With their team (Sarah Bolger, Donald Glover, and Evan Peters), they are now ready to take their remarkable, yet underground, achievement to the world. However, when the dean of their university learns about the unsanctioned project he shuts the project down. Desperate to save their work, the team takes matters into their own hands leading to tragic consequences when Zoe is accidentally killed.

Can they once again do the impossible? What will be the consequences if they do?

The Lazarus Effect is a smarter yet far too timid sci-fi/horror flick that settles into a familiar groove rather than choosing to explore any new territory despite a promising premise that weaves together everything from Flatliners to Frankenstein to even an old Star Trek episode. Directed by David Gelb, who gave us the wonderful doc Jiro Dreams of Sushi, The Lazarus Effect initially seems like a film that's going to work but by film's end it seems like maybe studio interference turned it into a dumbed down sci-fi/horror flick with simplified sci-fi and virtually nothing resembling an actual scare.

It's relatively easy to understand why a quality cast would sign on for The Lazarus Effect, a wonderful concept of a film that remains mildly entertaining despite its simplistic nature. One could argue, I suppose, that its entertainment value comes for all the wrong reasons  including laugh out loud funny lines and a post-Resurrection scenario that becomes increasingly silly in presentation.

Unfortunately, it's hard not to believe that somewhere about a third of the way through film that Duplass, Wilde and the rest of the gang didn't look around amongst themselves and think "What happened?"

As might not be a surprise, once Zoe is back on the scene she's not quite the same Zoe that Frank has always known and loved. She appears to have brought back with her an evil spirit and, as you might guess, the evil spirit is about to wreak havoc.

The Lazarus Effect plays out its relatively slight 83-minute running time with formulaic chills and thrills that mostly make you forget about the film's early promise. Early smarts give way to cheap horror gimmicks and The Lazarus Effect becomes just the latest in a long line of February throwaway films.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic