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Lazarus Project, The (DVD)

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The Lazarus Project DVD reviewReviewed by Tristan Sinns

Starring Paul Walker, Piper Perabo, Brooklynn Proulx, Bob Gunton

Directed by John Glenn

Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertaintment


Ben Garvey is a man sorely down on his luck. He had been recovering nicely from a bad run with the law many years prior; he has his freedom, a beautiful wife, a cute daughter, and a tolerable job. Trouble starts when the bigwigs at his employer get wind of his checkered criminal past, and Ben suddenly faces the grim reality of unemployment. Old habits die hard, and quick as a snitch in the brig, Ben is back with old family hoods trying to earn money the old fashioned way; by stealing it.

Things don’t go well with this new career choice, either. People die in a mixed up shoot out, and Ben’s tagged as the only criminal survivor. Being a hood caught during the commission of a crime that resulted in death, Ben is put on death row. A few years later, in the fine state of Texas, he gets a big warm shot of something unpleasant that should finally put him down into the forever after. That is, at least, until he wakes up; and then things get a little strange.

The Lazarus Project is a surreal bit of suspenseful mystery in which freshly executed Ben Garvey finds himself quite alive and in a strange mental facility. What happens there is the core of the film; as Ben tries to accept this new lifestyle, he also cannot help but question the strange facility that holds him. The resulting vibe feels very reminiscent of the mood set in Jacob’s Ladder, where there is the disturbing and creepy sensation that something is sincerely wrong. It surely is; though it doesn’t necessarily involve the same purgatory twist as that great classic.

The premise and thought behind the film is mildly interesting however, where the film mostly suffers is in a sleepy pace that makes the first two acts difficult to sit through. Ben isn’t only a man who’s in a lot of trouble; he’s a man who needs to learn to smile once in awhile. Yes, yes, I realize that it might be rough waking up from what you thought was your execution, and being separated from your wife, child, and freedom in the world, but does that mean you have to be such a human Quaalude? These initial acts could have used just a touch of gentle humor, or other human warmth, to breathe some life into Ben and the other characters. As they are, they are played so absolutely straight that it’s difficult to feel any attachment or sympathy at all for any of them.

And that sympathy factor is another mild problem. The Lazarus Project certainly strives to paint Ben as a sympathetic character, but here I have a problem: Ben is an idiot. If your parole is over, and you have a beautiful wife, a sweet daughter, and then have the misfortune to get dumped from your job, the last thing you want to do is barrel back into crime. He doesn’t even try for unemployment; doesn’t even try to scrounge up a new job; doesn’t even make an effort to find any alternative besides moping for a day and then signing up for a some quick fix vault breaking. It’s hard to be sympathetic when someone behaves like a loser and then loses; you get what you get.

The last act does pick up a bit, and eventually the reality of the organization behind the strange mental facility is revealed. \While this portion of the film does have a lot more energy, it also doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Ben, once armed with the truth and a trusty axe, doesn’t have much problem bringing the place to its knees. For an organization which is involved in dealing with death row inmates and other incorrigibles, you’d think they’d have the common sense to have a few guns lying around. It’s silly, too neat, and the ending comes strolling in soon after with a nice neat little bow tied around it.

The DVD release of this film is nearly bare bones; included are two deleted scenes that didn’t quite make it into the final cut.

For all this grumbling, The Lazarus Project is technically a well put together film. It looks good, and is reasonably well acted. The surrealism it strives for has occasions of effective delivery. Its problems lie mainly within a sleepy pace in the first two acts, unsympathetic characters, and a plot that tends to crumble if you start poking it with a stick. I can’t help but poke. A rental, if you must.

Special Features

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    2 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features

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    1 out of 5

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    American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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    Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

    Directed by Colin Bemis


    Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

    The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

    As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

    Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

    Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

    In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

    On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

    In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

    Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

    • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
    3.5

    Summary

    Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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    Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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    We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

    In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

    Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

    If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

    The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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    Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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    Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

    Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


    Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

    17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

    What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

    • Film
    2.0

    Summary

    Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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