Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Lazarus Effect (2015)

The Lazarus Effect is yet another movie about how bad science is, in the mode of Splice, Godsend and several others. It's kind of weird that so many of these movies seem to want to talk about the dangers of science like it isn't constantly creating miracles for us every fucking day, instead thinking it's something evil and sinister.

I wonder if they think we should all just drop the stuff and go back to worshiping Jesus in the dark by candlelight and thinking the Earth is flat and magic is real because someone invented something. Would that be better, Blumhouse Productions?? I dunno. But I think it's real easy for movies like this to miss the point of The Exorcist, is all I'm saying.

Director: David Gelb
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass

Co-written with Colin/The Observer.

This really is a pretty dumb, silly movie on all accounts – but there is one really, really good moment that comes out of nowhere and is then never seen again. We'll get to that in time.

The film begins with a bunch of scientists trying to reanimate a dead pig, I guess – what a weird opening scene! If the first line in your movie is “this pig smells like shit,” then I think you need to go back and rewrite your script, buddy.

Then we see that a new intern chick is filming the two lead scientists, Frank, played by Mark Duplass, and Zoe, played by Olivia Wilde. They're both joking around and act more like college students than actual pros. I guess you have to find humor somehow, but they seem awfully cavalier for a group of people trying to reanimate the dead!

This is the fun science lab where they break all of God's laws! Also, bad idea to show the type of camera set-up the entire movie had in your first scene.

Oh, and their other scientist assistant guys include one guy who's basically a stereotypical stoner character. Who thought that was a good idea? Did you try harder to assemble a Scooby Doo-like cast of misfits than a scientific research team? I love the scene of these two just sitting around playing a board game in a scientific research lab – what is this, the pre-school daycare section of the lab? Are they waiting for their moms to pick them up?

The idea behind their project, though, is to reanimate the dead and “give everyone the second chance they deserve.” Which is awesome, because Fidel Castro just died. I'm sure that's why they're really doing this.

So they test their project on this dog, and it actually works – the dog comes back to life. They seem pretty casual about that, honestly – they barely bat an eye when it happens. Uh, guys, pretty sure it's worth more than popping open a bottle of champagne! You just fucking brought a living creature back from the dead. But you're treating it like you just passed an exam in school. Kind of a disproportionate reaction there.

"Meh, I got the new iPhone the other day, this isn't that great."

They take the dog home, which seems like a brilliant idea to me. It predictably starts doing weird shit like walking on the bed in an odd, possessed manner... I'm sure this is normal for the dog. The next day they all get into a rousing conversation about if dogs have memories and if it can remember its former life – well, of course it has memories. Based on that bed scene, I think it has memories of watching Paranormal Activity too many times.

They also get in a conversation about the afterlife, with Frank saying when you die you see a light because the brain floods the pineal gland with DMT, so that's why people think they've had some religious experience. Zoe disagrees and says she thinks the soul has a “waiting place” that it goes to after death and that's sometimes why it happens. It's kinda silly, but I only bring this up because it will matter later on... 

It turns out the school they're working in has mostly Christian students, so the dean of the school forces them to stop doing it, because... I guess it would offend their delicate sensibilities? Huh. I guess that whole safe spaces on college campuses thing WAS onto something. I love that they apparently didn't have any idea what these scientists were doing on their own fucking campus. “You can do whatever ungodly abomination of science you want, but if we find out about it, our Christian sensibilities will shut you down. We're oddly reactive in that way!”

"Oh ho ho, I'm a hoity-toity upper class official standing in the way of your progress! I forgot my monocle and twirling-mustache at home! My only role is to be a one-dimensional obstacle that never shows up again!"

I also love Frank's argument as to why they should be allowed to do the experiment. He says it's because many other scientific accomplishments started as accidents – going on to list Penicillin and Coca Cola as examples. Yup, what you're doing is just like those! Penicillin, Coca Cola and the Necronomicon are all on the same page!

So then a bunch of cliché guys in suits acting like dicks come in and take literally fucking everything in the lab. They don't take the dog though! You know... the one thing that's proof that the experiment worked. You'd think that would've been their first priority, but I guess they just liked all the shiny lab beakers and toys more.

"Oh ho ho, I'm ANOTHER hoity-toity upper-class official standing in the way of your progress! Bet you didn't think a movie would have TWO of us, did you??? Hit you with one and you thought it was done, but I was right around the corner! Muwahahaha...."

Then the main characters are all whinging about how they can't go on and they lost all their data... you still have the fucking dog! Did you forget about that??? You know, the abomination of nature that you brought back from the dead? Remember?!

They even go back to the lab, frantically in the middle of the night, to recreate their experiment so they have proof, still never remembering the dog even exists. I guess the script has Alzheimer's and forgot about its own plot. Either that, or this was a cheap-ass way to have Zoe killed off so they could revive her. She really is pretty clumsy though! What a doofus.

It's barely even clear what happened. She... got electrocuted? OK then.

For some reason they take off her shirt to try and revive her Pulp Fiction style with a syringe full of whatever it is. Do her boobs have antenna powers that make her body more receptive to revival attempts? Maybe. I also like that they never once think about calling an ambulance for her! Nope, these geniuses have got it down so hard that they let her die and have to resort to basically black magic science to bring her back.

But on the upside... it works pretty easily!

As an added bonus, Zoe always did want to volunteer at her local haunted house attraction for Halloween, so this is good practice.

The others start asking her what it was like to die. But Frank says that isn't important and she needs to rest. Yeah! Pfft. Who needs to know trivial things like that? That shit is for straight-up losers. Frank is right as always!

But things get more somber for the group when they realize Zoe is now using 100% of her brain power, when normal humans only use 10%, even though that statistic isn't really true, in spite of what the movie Lucy wants you to think. But maybe that's a good thing for Zoe now. Maybe she can now use her brain for important things, like remembering the lyrics to even more songs, or knowing really complicated tax evasion schemes. The possibilities are endless!

The one really good moment of this film is when Zoe is talking to Frank about the visions and weird things she's seen when she died and after she came back. She looks really scared and talks about how she's been trapped in Hell for “years” and how she can't get out even now from this eerie 'burning building' world that ties into her past in ways the movie hasn't explained yet. The way Olivia Wilde plays this is quite effective and creepy, and she looks seriously tormented.

But fortunately, the movie realized THAT was a mistake, and quickly return to the awful jump scares and bad horror cliché of every other fucking movie like this. Phew. Glad you dodged the bullet of actually having to put in effort. There's a scene pretty shortly after this where she tries to make out with one of the guys, then when he tells her she needs to calm down, she locks him in a closet and then crumples it to nothing with her mind, killing him instantly. Glad he was in the movie for no reason but to die!

Nice molasses you put in that cabinet, movie...

The end of the movie is taken up by an endless dull chase scene full of shitty jump scares. There are some more scenes of the burning house hallucination that seems to revolve around Zoe. But nothing of substance, really. Mostly just scenes like this where she gets all black-eyed and growls like a demon dog or something. So lame.

Then it's revealed, pointlessly, that Zoe actually started the fire when she was a kid, and a bunch of people died. I don't know what this has to do with anything. Aside from, you know, making the whole movie a Billy Joel song.

Then the ghost-little-girl version of Zoe (I know it makes no sense, but the stupid movie's almost over) turns into what I can only describe as a great metalcore album cover from 2005.

No children were harmed in the making of The Lazarus Effect except in terms of their social standing and artistic integrity.

It's also very funny to me that this movie is all about science and the characters are scientists, yet the plot validates a completely speculative, specific opinion of Zoe's about what the afterlife is (that "holding area for the soul" she mentioned earlier). It's exactly what she thought it was! Why not go further? Have her think the afterlife is a bunch of talking pigs wearing sombreros, and then find out that's really what it is. Go all the way, you dumb movie!

Then she kills all of them and the end of the film is just her starting to revive them all with the evil, bad science, like they did to her. Oh no! But I guess it's got kind of a rosy lining – none of them actually die. They all get to live happily ever after as reanimated zombie demons! Except for that one guy who she crushed in the closet earlier. But who cared about him?

If horror movies were a class in school, The Lazarus Effect would be the kid that just ate glue all day. The characters and story are just bad, with nothing of any interest, and the scares are mostly all jump scare crap and cliché like the whole 'black eyes' trick that has gotten really old at this point. The movie was full of a bunch of plot threads like the shady corporation stealing their research material, which just went nowhere. At around 80 minutes long, that isn't very impressive.

There WAS that one really good moment where Olivia Wilde was talking about being in hell, which interestingly was the opposite of the usual 'show don't tell' paradigm. But otherwise, it sucked.

The whole thing was like Re-Animator, except it took itself way too fucking seriously. Strangely, Re-Animator was the better-written and better-done film though. Which is a pretty sad elegy for The Lazarus Effect, as it loses out on every count to a movie that had a scene of a decapitated head almost giving a kidnapped woman oral pleasure.

This is what's more serious and mature than The Lazarus Effect, for clarity's sake.