'The Lazarus Effect' is a flat mess that wastes a great cast
‘The Lazarus Effect’ is a flat mess that wastes a great cast

Perhaps the scariest thing about the painfully lame and sloppy horror movie “The Lazarus Effect” is how it wastes a great cast.

On some level, I’ve come to peace with the bi-monthly, PG-13 horror movie that gets trotted out as a solid return-on-investment featuring no-name actors walking around in the dark with jumpy flashlights.

But this talented cast, while not exactly stars, deserve a whole lot better and it would have been nice if this movie would have given them at least something to do.

We can start with Olivia Wilde, who is probably the most recognizable of the bunch as a “hey, it’s that hot girl” who crops up in the occasional Hollywood blockbuster.

Joining her is indie-film all-star Mark Duplass, who has written, directed, and starred in about 753 movies and drops in on TV shows like “The League” and “The Mindy Project.”

Rounding things out we have cult-TV favorites Evan Peters (“American Horror Story”) and Donald Glover (“Community”), along with former child actor Sarah Bolger.

I think what makes “The Lazarus Effect” so disappointing is there is lots of potential just lying around the place.

Aside from the cast, you’ve got documentary director David Gelb (who helmed the pretty decent “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”) making his first stab at a feature and a plot that, at least initially, seems interested in tackling some big, compelling ideas.

Our intrepid cast is a group of scientists who are working on a serum that can bring recently deceased patients back to life.

After several failures, the gang has success resurrecting a dog that acts strangely and may or may not be “eeeeeeeeeeeeeevil.”

There’s a slow burn of tension and lots of musings on the nature of life and death when a lab accident results in an impromptu human trial; and just when things are poised to get interesting, the movie goes nowhere really, really fast.

Instead of answering any questions about what is affecting the patients (Is it genetic mutation? Is it the Devil? Is it static cling?), Gleb decides to cram every horror-movie cliché he can think of into the movie’s mercifully brief, 83-minute runtime.

The result is a dull mess that will probably still, thanks to that built-in, horror-movie audience, turn a respectable profit.

A part of me wishes they would have tossed out the script about halfway through production and see if this cast could have conjured up another movie from scratch. Now that’s a science experiment I could get behind.

“The Lazarus Effect” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of horror violence, terror, and some sexual references.

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