Review: The Lazarus Effect

Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, and Evan Peters star in a film written by Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater and directed by David Gelb.

DOA: Starring (from left) Olivia Wilde, Evan Peters, and Mark Duplass, <em>The Lazarus Effect</em> is a poorly written and boringly conceived take on the Frankenstein myth.

Near the beginning of this latest revamp of the Frankenstein myth — itself a revision of good old Prometheus — the dull-witted scientists at Berkeley’s fictional Saint Paternus College successfully bring a dog back to life. After accomplishing the most desperate desire humanity has ever yearned after, our apparently idiotic researchers take a vow of silence and toast themselves with tepid off-brand champagne. Then they scurry home to bed, bringing the revived dog with them on a leash. Here is my puzzler: See if you can correctly identify their dumbest move. Right. They should have sprung for the expensive stuff.

Besides harboring stupid plot points and multiple promising ideas that fizzle into inanity and then lead to an almost perfectly un-scary conclusion, there is also the matter of wasted talent. In the ads, Olivia Wilde looks great with black contact lenses, and we know she can work wonders in a mad scene (remember her in Her?), and indie darling Mark Duplass is usually the soul of moral ambiguity replete with anxious tics, but here nothing either plausible or outlandish comes off the screen from either of them. And there is still another, deeper mystery: Why would director David Gelb, who made the honest, beautiful documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, want to follow up with this poorly written and boringly conceived cross between Flatliners and Pet Sematary? Admittedly, he excels at the opening credits, which are a long, juicy cavalcade of organs, tissue, and goopy liquids. These might be leftover shots from the sushi movie, but it works. Unfortunately, the horror ends a few seconds later when the film begins.

Maybe Gelb felt as if he were slumming, or maybe the studio took over, but the movie that should have given us a techie take on a fine idea comes off as a confusing drive-in exploitation flick. The audience is left only with the distinct impression that something died in front of them and left behind the stinky remains of some promising careers.


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