Monday, June 22, 2015

The Lazarus Effect Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
A group of researchers led by Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Wilde) have achieved the unimaginable: bringing the dead back to life. When Zoe is accidentally electrocuted in a horrific accident, Frank and his team use their experimental serum to resurrect her. But their attempt goes horribly wrong—unleashing terrifying powers within Zoe that put all of their lives in grave danger.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Frank (Mark Duplass) leads a team of researchers which include his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Wilde). The team is seeking to extend the time after clinical death where a person can safely be brought back to life. They hope to give first responders extra time to revive their patients. The brain dies quickly and the team has created a serum that they hope will bring people back from the dead with quality of life intact. Niko (Donald Glover) and Clay (Evan Peters) have been working hard at the task for quite some time. Eva (Sarah Bolger) is new to the team. She is the videographer that has been hired to record their progress.

The researchers have been able to bring back a dog after death. This not only requires the serum but also an electrical current. The first thing Zoe notices is that the dog’s cataracts are gone. This is an unexpected side effect but certainly a welcomed one. The dog doesn’t want to eat or play. Zoe begins to wonder if they should have brought him back. She discusses with Frank the idea that the dog didn’t ask to come back and they don’t know where he was taken from. Frank is convinced that the white light people see when they die is scientific and can be attributed to chemicals in the brain. Zoe’s religious upbringing has led her to believe that there is something after death. She is wrestling with the ideas of what an afterlife is and whether they have the right to interfere.

After their first success, the team receives bad news that their research is the intellectual property of a company which steps in and confiscates everything. They are distraught but Zoe reveals a bag of serum she kept at home, just in case. The group breaks into their own lab in order to repeat their success and have video proof that this was their discovery. 

They attempt to bring back another canine but when Zoe flips the switch she is electrocuted. Frank tries to resuscitate her but he cannot bring his fiancee back. He tries then sits with her body and cries for the woman he lost. Then a light bulb turns on and he realizes that he can bring her back. The team argues with him that she’s gone. They remind him that their research is nowhere near ready for human trials. All Frank cares about it getting Zoe back and one by one the team reluctantly agrees to assist. Amazingly, they do bring Zoe back from the dead. The scary questions are where has she been and is it really Zoe that came back?

The film begins with the creepiest of all things, an animal that just isn’t right. The viewer waits to find if Zoe and Frank will be mauled by their new pet. Later, when Zoe is given the serum it doesn’t appear to work. She is covered with a sheet. When she wakes, she sits up and is still covered with the sheet. It’s an image that takes your breath away and leaves you with the feeling that things are not okay. Zoe starts off scared and unsure what’s happened. Soon she is showing psychic and eventually telekinetic powers before she gets truly freaky.

Casting in this film is spot on. Mark Duplass is known for many comedic roles and I always think of Donald Glover as the guy from TV’s “Community”. Both men deliver serious drama and intensity in their roles. Olivia Wilde also delivers a stellar performance. She has to play one woman in many states of sanity. She makes you feel for her and then fear her at times you feel both. The Lazarus Effect has a few bloody moments, but overall it stays away from the gore but manages to deliver genuine tension and fear.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Lazarus Effect is presented on Blu-ray in high definition with a widescreen 16:9 (240:1) ratio. The film takes place almost exclusively in the dark basement laboratory and black levels and fine detail is excellent. All the special effects related to Zoe’s descent into madness are believable and realistic. At different times her skin is cracked and burned. The skin tones of the living and the dead are accurate. This is exactly what you want from a horror film.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Lazarus Effect’s 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio does not disappoint. As Zoe terrorizes her team she whispers, screams and calls out to them from all directions. When furniture breaks and fire rages it all sounds completely authentic and immersive.
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The special features are worth watching and are a nice supplement for those who enjoyed the film. 
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes – Available with play all feature or individually “Zoe Brain Scan”, “Clay NVG Search” and “Frank Head Crush”. Zoe’s brain scan explains a bit more about how the serum affected her and Clays NVG has some interesting night vision effects. The last scene shows the actual crushing of Frank’s head that you are allowed to imagine in the film. 
  • Creating Fear: The Making of The Lazarus Effect (14:25) – A comprehensive making of featurette where Writer Luke Dawson discusses his own night terrors and actor Mark Duplass talks about being skeptical when he received the script. Cast and crew discuss authenticity, building tension and the humor on set. 
  • Playing God: The Moral Dilemma (7:42) - This featurette includes the opinions of a Professor of Neurology, a Roman Catholic Priest/Author and an Author of books about near death experiences. The actors and crew share their thoughts on death and right and wrong.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Sneak Peeks – Previews for Poltergeist, The Transporter Refueled, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, The Pyramid, Oculus, American Horror Story: Freak Show, The Strain Season One and Relativity Explosion.
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
The Lazarus Effect delivers tension and thrills. This is the type of film I wish I’d seen in the theaters where the audience would be sure to jump at least once. It brings up the question just because scientists can do something, should they? It’ll also leave you thinking about whether or not you believe in an afterlife. The special features are as interesting as the film including the opinions of scientists, authors and clergy. The film has a lot in common with Flatliners which will bother some people. I found it to be a fun kind of scare with a great cast. The story may not be unique but this is a Blu-ray I will watch again with excellent audio/visual quality and extras that are as interesting as the film itself.

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