In a very short time Blumhouse Productions has become THE producer of modern American horror movies. Okay that’s not strictly true, but it has become the company that makes horror movies people will actually get to see, and more often than not go to see in the cinema. This has come off the back of Paranormal Activity costing the same price as a Ford Fiesta to buy and making, what is known in the trade as, fucking shit loads. On the one hand this is great, if you look at the quantity of films Blumhouse is pumping out and getting decent releases for then its really healthy for the genre. Plus some of the titles you have here include the Insidious films, the Paranormal Activities, Sinister, The Gift, The Visit, The House That Dreaded Sundown and several other films starting with The. Also they produced Whiplash which feels like a horror movie half the time, but with twenty minute drum solos. On the other hand, I suspect that a lot of studios have looked at their business model and decided that there’s no need to make a horror movie on a decent size budget when you get make Insidious for a million of so and make a hundred times that.
Still, are we meant to look at this gift horse in the mouth? I’m not inclined to do so. I adore the Insidious movies and a number other of their films so let’s not blame them for the studios desire to drive down budgets. A side issue is that you could argue that it is their fault that there are an excessive amounts of haunted house/children and found footage movies as they make a lot of these and I am sick to the back teeth of pretty much all them. However, they are also trying to push in different directions within the genre and The Lazarus Effect is definitely Blumhouse trying to push. Not very successfully though…
The movie takes place in the laboratories of some university research centre where, quite frankly, a brilliant cast of great actors are trying to create a drug which will elongate how long a patient can be operated on whilst in an induced coma or some such. Oh, let’s face it they’re trying to bring back the dead, we’ve all done it before, despite all the grounded in realism script and low-key performances it is the same old mad science: mastering death and fucking it up in the process. Basically its Re Animator without the laughs or any one trying to stick a dismembered head into Barbara Crampton’s vagina. More’s the pity.
We do have this great cast though. Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass are the main doctors working on the experiment with Donald Glover and Evan Peters helping out. Plus the lovely Sarah Bolger videoing it all (don’t worry this isn’t found footage). They all put a right old effort into making this a believable piece and it helps that the bulk of the film takes place just in the lab and over one night, getting everyone in the right intensive mood. Wilde in particular has to do some heavy lifting as it is her who has to come back from the dead and act all evil, quite a change from her usual charming performances. That’s not a spoiler by the way because its on all the posters so you know what’s going to happen.
Unfortunately it takes its sweet time in actually happening. We are just about at the half way mark when Wilde does bite the big one and until then we’ve had some standard stuff with a dog and not a lot else. Its all very well and good having character development and all but sometimes you just want the story to get a move on, especially when you have already been shown what is going to happen before the film has even started in the foyer. Why not skip twenty minutes and get on with it? It makes the first half drag quite a lot, and in a film that is only eighty five minutes long that’s not great. Also when things do finally kick off it all feels a little rushed, which also means that the character beats that were set up in the first half of the movie don’t pay off. For example it is pointed out several times that Donald Glover has a thing for Wilde (as well he might) early on but then when she comes back from the dead (SPOILER here) their soul interaction is her chucking him in a cabinet and crushing him to death. Okay, she gives him a cold kiss before hand but its not exactly a character arc. What is the point in setting something up like that and then ignoring it? Also its a waste of Glover which is a very bad thing.
The worse thing, however, about the rushed second act is that it really does feel like the middle section of a three part story. The really interesting stuff sounds like it would happen once Wilde left the lab and what effect she could have on a wider society. But then that sounds like a bigger film than what we have here, with a bigger budget and that goes against the Blumhouse business model. Maybe if had been a monster hit then we might have found out what happens next but instead it made just enough to turn a profit and not become an annual outing like the Paranormal Activities etc. I don’t think this is a bad thing here though. The film does work outside a lot of the current trends of horror but its really just the same old back-from-the-dead-science-gone-wrong thing which we can date back to Mary Shelly. And The Lazarus Effect, although it attempts some musings on the afterlife and not messing with things we do not understand, doesn’t really bring anything new to the morgue table.