There are many times when you feel like sticking your proverbial tail between your legs and sulking into the darkness of shame. One such time is when you’ve spent an entire day on your soapbox ranting with a fury of a thousand suns about all the ways that a certain film is the absolute worst atrocity ever committed in the name of art and/or entertainment—worse than “Two Girls, One Cup,” worse than the Matrix sequels, worse than a Golden Girls reboot starring a cast of digitally cloned Lindsey Lohans—and then, that evening, you see a movie that is even worse.
That worse movie is The Lazarus Effect, which opened last month, starring Olivia Wilde and Evan Peters. That’s right; even my unending and slightly disturbing fangirl love for Evan Peters could not save this film.
Here is the spoiler-free review: A team of scientists uses grant money to bring back animals from the dead. Oh no! Humans playing God! Quick—we need a lesson in humility and morals that preaches to us about the battles of faith and science, featuring . . . absolutely abysmal acting! Horrific writing! Terrible, embarrassing CGI! Loads of bad, brain-hurting pseudoscience! An attempt at big concepts reduced to a trope! The worst death scene in cinematic history! Plot holes so vast and gaping the film is just begging a Vilification Tennis drinking game in which every time a plot hole qweefs, the cast makes a “your mom” joke and everyone dies immediately of alcohol poisoning! BAD MOVIE. BAD.
My score of The Lazarus Effect is zero out of ten fancy magical quartz crystals.
In order to justify this abysmal rating, I will give a more detailed and spoiler-filled review below.
ARE YOU SURE YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE THE MOVIE?
I MEAN, ITS A BAD MOVIE
BACK IN MY DAY WE DIDN’T HAVE MOVIE REVIEWS TO TELL US WHAT WE WERE GETTING OURSELVES INTO. WE HAD TO PAY FOR OUR TICKET AND OUR OVERPRICED CONCESSIONS AND ALSO THE “I HAVE TO USE THE BATHROOM EMERGENCY SO I HAD BETTER BUY SOMETHING AS TO NOT RAISE SUSPICIONS ABOUT THE SMELL” GAS-STATION FUNDS. WE HAD TO SUFFER THAT IS WHATS WRONG WITH YOU KIDS
Ahem. The Lazarus Effect begins with a group of students ranging in age from what seems to be young twenties to slightly-not-as-young twenties. They have a massive lab underneath a university, where, with only the funds from a grant and their plucky optimism, they attempt to conquer death. Olivia Wilde’s character has invented a “serum” called the Lazarus serum, which, when injected into the brain and then electrified, restores life to the dead. How does such a serum work? you must be wondering. Science! DUH. No time for that. Stop asking stupid questions and look, Olivia Wilde is super hot, right?!
My heart sank with a sense of dread the moment the film started, but I knew I was done for when Wilde, in her lab coat, put on a record (not a CD, not an MP3, a vinyl) of the “Queen of the Night Aria” from The Magic Flute. This piece of music is known as “that piece of opera music that everyone who has never listened to opera knows and is a stand-in prop for culture and refinement.” GODDAMN IT.
The crew brings in a film student(?) slash future porn director(?) to film all of their SUPER SECRET DEATH SCIENCE, because . . . porn science? She is filming everything.
The team’s first successful experiment is performed on a dog: dead dog is zapped on the Frankenstein table and gets up, all alive and well. And this is where the movie goes from “Wow, this is really bad! I hope I get to see Evan Peters’s butt!” to “How many Junior Mints would I have to shove into my orbital sockets to stop this madness?” This team of scientists has literally just conquered death. So, the only reasonable response is to say, “Awww, puppy!” and take the dog home with them and talk about their feelings, right?
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING
No, they don’t hook the dog up to run tests. They don’t monitor it in any way. They just take Fido home as their new pet doggy and go to bed. It is only until Peters (whose character is the biggest idiot douchecanoe ever) says, “Hey, maybe that dog is going to go all Cujo on you” that there is any sort of acknowledgment of the absolute insanity of this crap. And then the rest of the crew leaves Peters alone with zombie pooch and he starts to taunt it. Oops. Dog breaks out, tears apart the lab. So what does Peters do? He goes looking for this recently deceased, superstrength, mad-scientist-experiment dog—going “Here, doggy doggy”—and corners it. Because . . . ?!?
He is saved at the last second. Then it is lunchtime. Then Wilde says, “What if we pulled this dog out of doggy heaven? That would not be right. Maybe we shouldn’t be playing God.”
WAIT. WAAAAAAIT. You are the head scientist on this project, who has been working on this for four years and postponed your wedding and life to do this research, and now you’re having—what, Jimmy John’s–induced Catholic guilt? Then the science-versus-God conversation takes place, and someone says “BOOM” when an effective point is made. Do I have to keep writing about this movie?
Uh-oh. Now the dean of the school calls up one of the guys and says, “You have offended the religious people in this school, so we are taking away your grant. Go away.” This actually brings up a good point: how did these kids conquer death while fiscally supported by only a grant? Go find a PhD student and ask them about their grant. Listen to them tell you about how they had to submit a nine-thousand-page paper signed in the blood of their future firstborn and wait a year to get ten bucks. Shhhh. Listen. How does the dean know about the super-secret science? Oh, yeah—that film student filming everything! Oh man, what a bitch! Except maybe it wasn’t her. That is never established. Who cares. HOLLYWOOD.
Anyway, now a big pharmaceutical company has bought the school because they want the Lazarus serum. They kick the team out of their lab. Harsh. So now our scientists (who include a token black character who does pretty much nothing) sit around and mope . . . with the dog . . . that the pharmaceutical corporation didn’t take. They took all of their Bunsen burners and test tubes and fast-food wrappers, but they left the thing that actually was the first being brought back to life?
“We must re-create this experiment. But how will we get back in the lab?” the scientists muse, waxing poetic. “They took our key cards!”
“Not mine, heeeheeeeheee,” says the camera-lady/backstabbing-mole-double-agent/porn-filmer.
“But they took the serum!” the others cry.
“Not mine!” quips Wilde, who pulls out . . .
Now. If you, like me, had the confusing and horrific experience of growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, when everyone did a lot of drugs and had really bad hair, you may remember these:
This creepy thing is a milk pouch. These showed up in elementary schools because drugs and replaced our beloved cartons. I don’t remember anything more about this. I blocked it out. But the point here is that Wilde reaches into her purse and pulls out one of these.
Except it’s like a gallon bag of bag-milk, and it’s not even strawberry. I wish I were lying. I’m not.
So they have a key card and the Lazarus-serum-milk-bag and they go back to the lab. But wait! There is a single security guard at the front desk. How will they ever get in?! If you guessed that they walk right in with the dog, you were right! They get down to the lab and exclaim in despair, “They took everything!” and yet they proceed to repeat the experiment on ANOTHER dog . . . with the same setup. Except, oops! Wilde forgot to remove her ring while throwing the comically large switch and gets electrocuted and dies. That’s okay. Shove that dog off the slab and roll her on up. “We shouldn’t do this”—blah blah blah, we all know you’re going to, so just get it over with. Okay, now she’s back. Except now she is . . . evil?
Our heroes find themselves trapped in the lab with a reanimated Catholic girl who is now evil (because science = bad). What ever will happen?! That’s right—she kills them all. Runs around in the dark with opera playing, killin’ people. In one of the most expected and frustrating clichés, she kills the token black guy first. And while his cause of death is the only interesting part of the film, it’s completely ruined by horrible practical effects. And as mentioned before, this includes the worst death scene in history: Wilde chokes Peters with an e-cig.
Evan f’n Peters dies from choking on an e-cigarette.
How will this end?
Now we see into Wilde’s tragic past, and the only survivor of the massacre, the film girl, tries some Psych 101 on her. It works! Now she isn’t evil. Oh wait; it was a trick. The end.
Can I be done now? Plz.