The supernatural horror film The Lazarus Effect takes a cue from movies like Frankenstein and Re-Animator as it features scientists who are intent on bringing the dead back to life. It stars Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass as Zoe and Frank, a couple of medical professionals who have found a way to resurrect the deceased through the use of a serum they have named “Lazarus.” But during one experiment Zoe gets electrocuted and dies, and Frank in desperation gives her the serum which successfully returns her to the land of the living. However, Frank comes to discover that Zoe has developed some incredible abilities which makes him wonder if she brought something truly evil back with her.
One plot point in The Lazarus Effect concerns a nightmare Zoe keeps having where she is trapped in a burning house, and there’s a door ahead of her which seems to have a raging fire waiting to burst out from behind it. Even more unsettling is that she sees a pair of hands at the bottom of the door struggling to escape whatever fiery fate is coming their way. This nightmare gets a new meaning once Zoe is resurrected.
This ended up reminding me of Joel Schumacher’s film Flatliners which starred Keifer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon as medical students intent on discovering what lies beyond death. Each is made to die for a minute or two before they are resuscitated, and their afterlife proves to be a realm where they are tortured for the grievous and painful sins they committed in the past. Seeing that The Lazarus Effect kind of deals with the same thing, it made me wonder why these movies seem to imply that we still have a high psychic price to pay once we leave this mortal coil.
I got to ask the cast of The Lazarus Effect this during the film’s press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California. To first to provide an answer was Donald Glover who plays lab assistant Niko. Best known for playing Troy Barnes on the cult television comedy Community, Glover said that death remains the one thing we don’t know about.
“I feel like we kind of live right now in a time where humans feel like we know everything now especially when we just pick up the phones and happily answer and people feel like everything is done,” said Glover. “It’s like, ‘We did it guys! We have internet.’ It was cool talking to Olivia (Wilde) and Mark (Duplass) about how people are actually doing research, and I was reading articles about doctors actually bringing people back to life. There was a New York cab driver who was like dead for, I think like, a while (laughs). They just brought him back, and now they are doing studies on post-death and stuff like that. This is why I really like this film. It felt special because there’s realness and people really don’t even understand what we are after that (death). I think it’s scary because we just don’t know it especially when we’re being told all the time we know everything.”
Duplass followed up on Glover’s response by saying it reminded him of something he read about movies like The Lazarus Effect. In the process, he also elaborated on how the approach to this resurrection movie differed from others like it.
“When a movie examines this type of subject matter, usually it’s either in the future or everyone is wearing some sort of like leathery, shiny black suits, and it’s kind of like not human,” Duplass said with a laugh. “So we all loved this idea, and that’s part of the reason David (Gelb, the director) cast a lot of us because maybe we’re more on the naturalistic side of performances, that we’re just so normal looking and normal acting research students going through this very un-normal thing. It was just exciting.”
Indeed, death is something many of us don’t want to think about, but the question of what happens to us when we pass away continues to linger in our minds. The Lazarus Effect is not meant to give a definitive answer to that, but along with Flatliners it makes you want to make peace with all the bad things you did in your life before it’s too late.