A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Lazarus Effect is a horror thriller about a group of medical students who resurrect a dead woman, with unexpected results. There's lots of scary stuff and plenty of jump-shocks, plus blood, deaths, and some creepy hospital-type stuff (i.e. needles). Dead animals are shown and experimented on. Language isn't frequent but includes a few uses of "s--t" and other words. Two characters are a couple and are seen kissing, cuddling, etc. The female lead also briefly kisses another man, and there's a discussion about dental dams. One character smokes an electronic cigarette, to the others' annoyance, and there's some wine and champagne drinking. The movie has the same "don't play God" themes as classics like Frankenstein and The Monkey's Paw and could spur discussions about life and death.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
While working on a way to extend the window of time between when a person's body dies and when their brain actually dies, med students Frank (Mark Duplass) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde) develop a serum that can actually resurrect the dead. Their first experiment, with a dog, goes fairly well, albeit with some strange side effects. After a loophole in a grant causes their lab to be shut down, they decide to run an undercover experiment at night to re-create their lost data. But during the experiment, Zoe is electrocuted and dies. Frank decides to use their process to bring her back, but what actually returns is something entirely unexpected.
Is it any good?
The movie is a terrible recycling of old ideas, ranging from classics like Frankenstein and The Monkey's Paw to 2014's Lucy, not to mention the routine effects and jump-scares. The filmmakers might have used these things in fresh ways, but they don't bother. Rather, the movie anxiously, recklessly rushes through its plot toward the climax, as if it's afraid of anyone noticing its emptiness. Zoe doesn't even get a chance to adapt to her new condition or to ruminate on what she's been through. She goes from 0 to 60, from sweetheart to an evil monster with total control of her powers. What a waste of talent.
THE LAZARUS EFFECT barely avoids being yet another found-footage horror movie, even though it has a documentary filmmaker character (Sarah Bolger) filming everything, and security cameras are everywhere. That was a wise move, as was casting decent, reliable actors like Bolger, Duplass, Wilde, Donald Glover, and Evan Peters. But the next question becomes: What were they doing here?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether The Lazarus Effect is scary. What were the scariest parts? Why? What makes something a horror movie rather than a thriller? Which genre would you say this one is?
Why does the movie have a documentary filmmaker recording everything? Why do the characters need things recorded?
How violent is the movie? How did the violence affect you?
The movie touches on some deep themes about life and death and what happens to the human body. What do you believe?
- In theaters: February 27, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: June 16, 2015
- Cast: Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Sarah Bolger
- Director: David Gelb
- Studio: Relativity Media
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of horror violence, terror and some sexual references