Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘The Lazarus Effect’ (2015)

Relativity Media

Relativity Media

The Resurrection archetype never, well, dies. The savior revivified in Christianity, the phoenix arising from its ashes in mythology and the undead walking amongst us in pop culture all demonstrate that life-after-death is the gift that keeps on giving, as it does in The Lazarus Effect.

Directed by David Gelb, and with its titular nod to Lazarus, the biblical figure raised from the dead, the movie is hardly coy about its plans. Scientists Frank Walton (Mark Duplass) and his fiancée Zoe McConnell (Olivia Wilde) are researchers at St. Paternus University in California. For the past several years, their grant has allowed them to pursue studies on their “Lazarus serum” which, when dripped into the brain of a dead animal with the right amount of electrical voltage, could potentially bring the creature back to life. Within the first third of the film, Rocky, an elderly canine, is one lucky dog who gets back his life force.

The team – brilliant stoner Clay (Evan Peters), Niko (Donald Glover), and student videographer Eva (Sarah Bolger) – are jubilant. However, in a bit of unexplained underhanded business, the couple’s intellectual property rights get shifted to a corporate owner. With the clock ticking, Frank decides there’s still enough time to duplicate their over-the-top experiment so they can prove rightful ownership to the discovery. During the frenzied lab set-up, Zoe is electrocuted and the distraught Frank persuades the others to do the resurrection thing on his girlfriend. Oops.

Zoe indeed reenters the world of the living – in the Plutonic sense she has been transformed – but she’s not quite right, and certainly neither radiant nor goddess-like. Zoe is clearly a subterranean Hades figure – no surprise, as their laboratory is in the sub-basement, and she states that one mistake in her life has landed her in hell.

By this point, the narrative has established two things. Zoe is stuck in an endless loop of non-stop nightmares which seem to be tied to a terrible incident from her past, and a real-world chemical known as DMT floods the brain upon death, supposedly allowing the soul to transition to its next phase.

In the same way Marcus Brody warns Indiana Jones about messing with the Ark – that some entities belonging to another realm ought not be tampered with – the university dean warns Frank that he’s playing God, and Ava warns the team about “crossing the line” and asking “big questions.” But, if hell means eternally reliving the worst moment of your life, as Zoe claims, which even suggests an Eastern reincarnational theme, then the returnee’s resurrection is essentially a hell lived on earth.

Both the names Zoe (derived from the Greek) and Ava (derived from the Hebrew) mean life. Guess which gal emerges the victor?

Archetype: Resurrection.

Astrology Archetype: ♇ (Pluto)


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