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Film / The Lazarus Effect

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Clinical trials can be hell.

The Lazarus Effect is a 2015 film starring Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters, and Donald Glover. A team of scientists is working on creating a better means of resuscitating dead patients to allow doctors more time to heal them. When they get shut down for overstepping the bounds of their grant, they try to do one last experiment to prove they can do it… and things get worse when project leader Zoe gets accidentally electrocuted, only for her fiancé Frank to attempt the procedure on her. Things go downhill from there.

This film provides examples of:

  • 90% of Your Brain: Clay thinks this is what's going on with Zoe. Though he notes that the regular trope is a myth and that it's 10% of the brain that gets used at a time, but her serum is causing her to use 100% of her brain all the time.
  • Ax-Crazy: Zoe turns into an utter psycho when she comes back from the dead. Although it's possible that she was an unhinged loon to begin with, what with her involvement in the apartment complex fire and all.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Zigzagged. The plot of the movie, of course, hinges on the fact that Zoe dies and comes back, but she kills Nico first.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Zoe post-resurrection.
  • Came Back Wrong: It starts with the dog they first successfully resurrect, Rocky. He's listless and won't eat or drink. Then he starts going all Cujo. Zoe herself starts exhibiting behavior that leads her friends to think she's a victim of Demonic Possession. She very much isn't.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mr. Wise, the owner of the rival pharmaceutical company and the Dean of the school. The latter allows the former to take all the research, and the former spied on the team and sabotaged their research once they got results.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Zoe survived a fire that killed many people in her apartment complex. She's had recurring nightmares of it for years. Turns out she set it.
  • Demonic Possession: Eva thinks this might be the case, but it's unclear whether it was possession, Zoe going crazy from the resurrection, or Zoe going crazy from having been in Hell. Given she intentionally started the fire that ends up being her personal Hell, she might even have been bad all along.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Most of the ending is this.
  • Downer Ending: Between the rival corporation having its hands on the Lazarus research and the now evil Zoe resurrecting everyone she killed, no good can come of whatever happens next.
  • Dying as Yourself: Subverted. Zoe not only survives, it might have been just a dying dream.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The ending shows the villain's Redemption Equals Death was all a Dying Dream by the Final Girl. The villain is alive, and the Final Girl is dead. This works well with the film's theme of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, as a magical explanation would make a great deal of what we saw accurate anyway, while a mundane explanation would call it into question.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Rocky barks at Zoe after her resurrection. She kills him, and the ending reveals she started the fire in her apartment, so his instincts were spot on.
  • Expy: Olivia Wilde plays a biology/medicine scientist in a story that deals with very esoteric scientific ideas and is filled with Techno Babble. This is very similar to her Breakout Role in a TV show that ended just a year before the filming of this movie started.
  • Foreshadowing: Zoe says she spent her whole life doing everything right and feels like she went to hell over a single mistake. This hints at the fact that she was the one who started the fire.
  • Hell: Zoe claims that she went there after she died. For her, Hell was being forced to relive that fire in her apartment as punishment for starting it in the first place.
  • Hell Hound: Rocky becomes a form of this.
  • "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight: It works momentarily, but Frank was inwardly doubting she was herself and could be saved. Zoe picks up on it with her telepathy and... it doesn't end well for Frank.
  • Kick the Dog: Well, Rocky was already going creepy and possibly murderous, but Zoe taking him out was definitely part of her slippery slope.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The Dean & the Pharmaceutical Company confiscate the research in the most obnoxious way possible, but they are right. Frank was conducting deeply unethical research that both far exceeded his mandate and violated the terms of the grant agreement. The Dean is completely correct that Frank has no one to blame but himself and that was the only realistic outcome once his actions were discovered. The Dean is also correct that he is a hopeless idealist trying to prove his theories about death and the afterlife, which deeply offended the University's donors (The University is religious institution.) His research was endangering the funding of the entire University on the off chance he might be right. As such, she was well within her rights to shut the program down.
  • The Mole: It's suspected a member of the team leaked information on their success to the Dean, allowing his company to swoop in and steal their research. It's discovered later that he had actually been monitoring their progress for months through the security system, explaining how he was so quickly able to capitalize on their mistake.
  • Neck Snap: How Eva goes out.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Zoe, of a fire when she was a child. That she started. On purpose.
  • Psychic Powers: Zoe starts exhibiting powers thanks to the serum, namely Mind over Matter and Telepathy.
  • Recycled Premise: Critics noted this movie resembles Flatliners.
  • Sequel Hook: The corrupt corporation has the research, and Zoe and her newly resurrected fiancée and friends are now free to wreak havoc.
  • Unrequited Love: Niko for Zoe.
  • Viral Transformation: After Zoe kills everyone and pumps herself full of the serum, she then plugs herself into the injection machine and proceeds to start resurrecting everyone.