The Lazarus Effect is a 2015 American supernatural science fiction horror film directed by David Gelb, starring Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Donald Glover (also known as Childish Gambino), Evan Peters and Sarah Bolger.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Medical researchers Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancée, Zoe (Olivia Wilde), have developed a serum, code-named "Lazarus". It was intended to assist coma patients but is shown to actually be able to bring the dead back to life. With the assistance of their friends, Niko (Donald Glover), Clay (Evan Peters) and videographer Eva (Sarah Bolger), they run a successful trial on a recently deceased dog.

However, they notice that the dog is behaving differently than it did when it was alive: its cataracts disappear, it loses its appetite, and it demonstrates other strange abilities. Tests reveal that the serum (instead of dissipating) is constructing strange new synapses within the dog’s brain.

When the dean of their university learns of their underground experiments, their project is shut down. They are also informed that a major pharmaceutical corporation has bought out the company that funded their research. The company and their attorneys confiscate everything associated with the project.

Frank and his team sneak back into their lab to duplicate the experiment so that they can prove that they created the serum. During this attempt, things go horribly wrong and Zoe is fatally electrocuted. Unwilling to let her go, Frank uses the serum to resurrect her. Initially, the procedure appears to be a success, but the team soon realizes that something is wrong with Zoe.

Zoe claims that when she died, she went to her version of Hell, which was a nightmare originating from her childhood: during a fire in her apartment building, she witnessed trapped neighbors burning to death. She also begins to demonstrate unusual psychic abilities. The Lazarus serum causes brains to "evolve" incredibly rapidly, giving Zoe superhuman powers such as telekinesis and telepathy.

The serum also causes increased aggression and ultimately insanity.

Niko walks into a room and is surprised by Zoe. After he refuses to kiss her, she uses telekinesis to throw him into a locker and crush it with him inside, killing him. When Clay demands to know where Niko is, she kills him as well by choking him with an e-cigarette.

Later, Zoe kills Frank after he attempts to kill her with a poison injection. She then injects herself with an entire bag of the Lazarus serum, making her abilities stronger than before.

Using her newly empowered abilities, Zoe cuts the power to the entire lab. Eva (who is still alive and trying to locate Zoe to inject her) is left in the dark. Zoe eventually finds Eva and sends her into the hell that she went to when she died.

Inside the nightmare, it is revealed that Zoe was the one that caused the fire in the building, causing her to go to hell upon death. Eva is able to escape and inject Zoe with the syringe, but that only happened in her mind and not reality; Zoe then kills Eva.

Afterwards, she injects Frank with her own blood (which is saturated with the Lazarus serum) in an attempt to bring him back from the dead.


  • Mark Duplass as Frank Walton
  • Olivia Wilde as Zoe McConnell
  • Sarah Bolger as Eva
  • Evan Peters as Clay
  • Donald Glover as Niko
  • Ray Wise as Mr. Wallace
  • Amy Aquino as President Dalley


The film (which was originally titled "Lazarus") was scheduled to be released on January 13, 2015 with Lionsgate distributing the film, but on November 4, 2014, it was announced that Relativity Media acquired the film and set the release date for February 20, 2015.

In December of 2014, it was announced that the film's new title would be "The Lazarus Effect" and would be released on February 27, 2015 (a week later than the previously scheduled release date).


Box OfficeEdit

"The Lazarus Effect" opened at #5 at the box office, grossing $10,203,437 during its opening weekend behind films such as Focus, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water and Fifty Shades of Grey.

The film closed in theaters on June 11, 2015.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"The Lazarus Effect" has received generally negative reviews from critics.

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 14% approval rating, based on 86 reviews, with a rating average of 3.8/10.

The site's consensus reads:

"The Lazarus Effect has a talented cast and the glimmer of an interesting idea, but wastes it all on insipid characters and dull, recycled plot points."

On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has a score of 31 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews."

According to CinemaScore, audiences gave the film a grade of "C−" on an A+ to F scale.

Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a negative review, saying, "The film squanders whatever potential it had, not to mention the talents of such performers as Duplass and Wilde who clearly deserve better."

James Rocchi of The Wrap gave the film four out of five stars, saying, "The Lazarus Effect doesn't exactly break new ground, but it nonetheless finds plenty to relish in the mouldering bits it stitches together as it gives classic themes about death, life and the soul a literal and figurative shot in the arm."

Geoff Berkshire of Variety gave the film a negative review, saying, "Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde struggle to breathe life into a recycled thriller about the horrors of reanimation."

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film one out of four stars, saying, "This is an 83-minute movie that feels a half hour longer and, if it weren't for the loud crescendos, it would put people to sleep."

Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "Absorbing, well-crafted and appropriately tense, with a smart cast that raises it a notch above average."

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gave the film zero stars, saying, "Looks like it was directed by a blind and deaf person over a weekend on a leftover laboratory set from a TV show and edited with a roulette wheel."

Peter Keough of The Boston Globe gave the film a negative review, saying, "There are lessons to be learned from this minimalist thriller. The first is that scaring people requires more than just tossing furniture around, turning the lights off and on, and basically sneaking up from behind and shouting Boo!"

A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a C-, saying, "Like too many horror films, this one seems targeted at a hypothetical audience using only 10 percent of its brainpower."

Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News gave the film two out of five stars, saying, "The Lazarus Effect, clocking in at a brief 86 minutes, doesn’t go far enough, isn’t scary enough and has mad scientists who just aren’t mad enough. You watch it hoping it revives itself, but that dream is dead and buried."

Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film one out of four stars, saying, "It staggers, zombielike, from one jump-scare to another before petering out, a scant 83 minutes after rising from the slab."

Bruce Demara of the Toronto Star gave the film two out of four stars, saying, "While The Lazarus Effect isn't the worst scary movie film you'll see this year, it is probably one of the most predictable and lazily plotted."

James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film two out of four stars, saying, "The Lazarus Effect begins with an intriguing premise then proceeds to squander all the early goodwill through a slow, inexorable descent into cheap horror gimmicks."

Kevin C. Johnson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gave the film two out of four stars, saying, "The Lazarus Effect boasts nothing special. It's not going to provide much relief for horror-starved audiences."

Keith Staskiewicz of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C-, saying, "I would have loved to see more from the filmmakers, daring to fail while staking out some new terror incognita instead of just going through the motions of an experiment for which we already have the results."

Theatrical TrailerEdit

The Lazarus Effect Movie Trailer

The Lazarus Effect Movie Trailer

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