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Jump Scares and Boredom: 'The Lazarus Effect' Review

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | February 27, 2015 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | February 27, 2015 |

The Lazarus Effect sat on a shelf for two years before being blessed with its release this weekend. It’s got one hell of a cast: Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Donald Glover, Evan Peters. So one can understand why it eventually got thrown out into the wild to try to scrape back its wee $5 million budget. On the other hand, one can also understand why it was sitting on the shelf for so long, because it is a terrible movie.

Scientists throw technobabble around, have a few half-assed conversations about religion versus science as they work on magic goop that will raise the dead, Olivia Wilde dies in a lab accident, they bring her back, she comes back wrong, she goes full Carrie. The end. Full stop. That’s the entire movie, and at 75 minutes it’s about three times longer than it needs to be.

I guess I could mark that with spoiler tags, but come on what’s there to spoil? Everything I just typed is in the trailer anyway.

There is nothing frightening in the entire movie. There is nothing visually interesting in the entire movie. There is no creative or clever take on a story that we’ve seen fifty times before, not even an ironic nod at the audience. It’s like watching someone who’s a really bad storyteller try to tell you what happened in a movie you’ve already seen.

You know what it does have? Jump scares. You know, the hallmark of lazy and uncreative horror movies? That’s the only mechanism that exists in the entire movie for trying to get a rise out of the audience. There’s no gore, there’s no creepiness, there is not the most basic capacity for telling a horror story at play here. Just jump scares telegraphed so far in advance that you know they’re coming and so you just sit there glaring at the screen in contempt for the volume blast that you know is about to surge through the completely empty theater.

This is beating a dead horse at this point, but since horror directors just can’t seem to help themselves, we’ll give it a few more whacks. Jump scares aren’t scary. Stop using them. They’re like claiming that you’re going to screen a tragedy, guaranteeing that you’re going to make the audience cry repeatedly, and then just walking through the theater spraying onion juice in their eyes. Sure, there are tears, but you’re getting them by being a dick not by actually eliciting an emotional reaction.

At one point after crawling back from the Pet Semetary, Wilde’s character insists that despite only being dead for an hour, it seemed like years because hell means reliving the same thing over and over again. What a delightful meta-commentary on the experience of sitting through this film.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at You can email him here.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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