Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Lazarus Effect [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2.5 Stars) (1 Stars)  AVClub (C-)  Fr. Dennis (1/2 Star)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
ChicagoTribune (R. Moore) review (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

Viewed through the prism of Lent, the films released by Hollywood this time of year offer some fairly interesting choices.  In recent years, there have been some religiously uplifting films released at this time when much of the Christian world is commemorating the season of Lent in preparation for Easter.  And then there have been more morally problematic films like the two major releases this weekend: Focus [2015] (already reviewed here), and the current film The Lazarus Effect [2015] (directed by David Gelb, screenplay by Luke Dawson and Jeremy Slater).

Already uncomfortable with the film's problematic title (some would honestly call it quasi-blasphemous) invoking memory of Jesus' last miracle (the raising of Lazarus from the dead [John 11:1ff) before Jesus was condemned to death for arguably doing good things, and turning again a good deed (one would think that Lazarus and his family / friend would have certainly been quite grateful for Jesus having raised him ... ) into the inspiration for a Frankenstonian horror movie, I honestly toyed with _forgoing_ seeing this film.

But alas, I decided that since the film did more or less obvious allude to religion, I'd go (this time) to see it.  (IMHO, I do believe, however, that we _all_ have the right to NOT GO TO A FILM that we'd expect NOT TO LIKE or even be offended by ... even if it is nominally "religiously themed").

So then the film ... Two medical researchers, Jake (played by Mark Duplass) and Zoe (played by Olivia Wilde) along with two grad students Clay (played by Evan Peters) and Niko (played by Donald Glover) in their charge, decide to "extend" their research into a serum that could reactivate (increase) brain activity in coma patients into seeing if they could use the same serum to reactivate brain activity in completely brain dead animals.  They would inject the serum into the comatose (or even brain dead) animals' cerebral cortexes and then send a fairly strong charge of electricity into the brains to see if they could "jump start" brain activity again.  (The experimental "serum" makes the project seem at least somewhat more sophisticated than what good ole Dr. Frankenstein was doing in Mary Shelley's famous novel).

Well, after a few tries, they do actually revive a previously dead (and cryogenically frozen) dog, all videotaped by an aspiring journalism student Eva (played by Sarah Bolger) from the same university.

The experiment's success causes some inevitable soul searching among at least some of the research team, notably Zoe, who we're informed was at least nominally raised Catholic.  Jake, who's also her fiance' jokes: "Two glasses of wine and the Catholic school girl comes out..."  Still, at least nominally, Zoe's not entirely comfortable with the implications of this work.

Neither is the University, it turns out.  Whether it's Eva's tape or just simply video surveillance cams throughout the laboratory that pick-up on the researchers' "off the reservation" work, the University drops the hammer on their project.  And interestingly enough, the pharmaceutical company that's been paying for their work on the serum to revive brain activity in comatose patients comes to confiscate ALL THE RESEARCHERS' DATA now that the researchers have apparently made the same serum revive even entirely dead animals.  Hmm, they apparently saw a gold mine here...

Not wanting to lose years of work, Jake, Zoe and the team sneak back into the lab to do the experiment "one more time" so that they could publish something themselves.  During the course of the experiment (to revive another brain-dead/cryogenically frozen dog), Zoe accidentally electrocutes herself.   And so ... Jake decides to try to reanimate her himself (she _was_ his fiancee' after all... ;-). And the rest of the movie follows ...

What follows, however, becomes IMHO rather appalling after a while...

It turns out that Zoe's been pulled back from (something of spoiler alert, but the rest of the movie's premise wouldn't make sense otherwise) Hell.

Now why would she find herself "in Hell"?  Well, SHE tells Jake "I did ONE THING WRONG AS A CHILD ... AND ..."

Now, while it turns out actually that "one thing" was actually quite a big thing ... (no need to explain here... go see the movie), however THE CATHOLIC PRIEST IN ME could not help but laugh:  "Honey, YOU'VE BEEN LIVING WITH A GUY FOR THREE YEARS without any movement toward marriage (even though she apparently had wanted to, it's just that Jake was too busy working on this project...) AND YOU DON'T FIND _ANYTHING_ AT ALL (EVEN PARTIALLY) WRONG WITH THAT???"

Welcome to Hollywood revisionist "morality" at it's most appalling ;-)

I'd doubt I'd want to throw her into Hell for that sin (or even the one for which she was apparently thrown into Hell for) but this is classic American Secular Morality of this day:

(1) There is no Sin, but (2) there is NO FORGIVENESS either.

Whereas the Catholic Church has always taught that THERE IS SIN (just look around), and YET THERE IS ALSO FORGIVENESS.

So she did a terrible thing as an eight year old ... and (by the film) THAT'S IT / DONE / FINISHED / HELL.  But she could COMPLETELY IGNORE TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN MORALITY and that's COMPLETELY FINE WITH NO MORAL CONSEQUENCE WHATSOEVER.

LOL ... this was a script written by a moral teenager ;-)

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  1. It suffered from a lackluster ending

    1. Hi Thomas, I think it suffered for more than just that ;-)