In The Lazarus Effect, Mark Duplass and Olivia Wilde star as Frank and Zoe, two scientific researchers who are running clinical trials on a new serum that has the ability to revitalize a corpse after death. During an experiment, Zoe suffers a tragic accident and Frank, desperate to save her, uses his research to resurrect Zoe- a decision that has dire consequences for all.

Directed by David Gelb and co-written by Jeremy Slater and Luke Dawson, The Lazarus Effect arrives in theaters everywhere this weekend and recently, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with both Gelb and powerhouse producer Jason Blum about the project and much more.

Great to speak with you, today. I had a lot of fun with the movie just because it didn’t feel like every other theatrical movie out there these days. Let’s start off at the beginning- how did this project come about and David, how did you come on board as the director?

David Gelb: This project came to me originally through Matt Kaplan; we were both looking to do something different and unique and this script was great. I worked on the script with Jeremy Slater and we did the first rewrite which really excited me because this concept had so many possibilities to it.

I had to do a lot of lobbying on my own behalf in order to direct though just because my background in filmmaking isn’t necessarily in horror. In fact, I almost had to ‘direct’ this before we even began production just to prove I could do it- I did all kinds of storyboards and prepared this really involved pitch which was really hard, because it doesn’t always work out. Thankfully, it did this time (laughs).

Jason Blum: That’s what we liked about it too. It does have this Flatliners kind of quality to it but as you said, it’s really different than anything happening in the genre right now so we thought this could be another opportunity to do something a little different for audiences.

But I will totally admit that when the project was brought to us with David already attached, I was a little skeptical just because his background is in documentary filmmaking so I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. But what turned it all around for me was speaking to Mark and Olivia after he had his meetings with them; he met with them originally about the project and to see how excited and enthusiastic they both were about the story and working with David made me realize he was definitely the right guy for the job.

I’m a big fan of movies like The Fly or Re-Animator or even Flatliners like you mentioned and thought this did a great job of exploring that “science run amok” kind of story and kept the stakes plausibly high as well.

David Gelb: I liked the science gone wrong aspect but I also wanted to make sure we kept this grounded in a pseudo-reality too so it felt like this was something that could really be happening in a laboratory somewhere. What I really thought was cool though was the character of Zoe and seeing how her character evolves because you really like her at the beginning of the film but by the end, she evolves into this huge, villainous presence.

I was also really interested in this debate about science and the dangers of ambition and what these kind of decisions can do to someone’s moral compass. Olivia’s character is conflicted about what she’s doing because she believes in something beyond just death whereas Mark is a guy who believes in the science of the world so he only thinks about what his work means in that respect. He doesn’t consider the bigger picture of our existence and that’s his downfall.

Something else we wanted to do was open up the idea of what Hell really is- we didn’t want it to be the usual demons with pitchforks you always see. We thought Hell would be something more personal, more reflective of your sins and regrets from your life and I can’t imagine a worse way to spend your eternity- tortured by all the things you’ve done wrong in your life. The concept of evil is so subjective so we thought we could do something very different here.

But I enjoy these kind of debates because there really is no definitive answer- at least right now- and I hope this is the kind of movie where audience continue to have a dialogue about it after they leave the theater. Those are the best kind of movies, I think- the ones that keep you talking even after you’re done watching them.

Let’s talk a bit about Mark and Olivia because they both were really engaging and the way Olivia took her character to such extremes was great too.

David Gelb: Yeah, Olivia came in guns blazing and with so many ideas on how she could make Zoe’s evolution that much more effective. We knew that her character was going to be the key to keeping the audience involved with the story- because Zoe’s so engaging- and Olivia did an amazing job in that respect. She also did a ton of research too because she didn’t want to just go in and play a part, she needed to immerse herself into Zoe’s world and that dedication shows.

Mark was also great just because even though you like him too, you just know he’s making all these decisions for the wrong reasons and that’s his downfall. He’s still a human being and everything he does in the movie is because he really believes in what he’s doing and his desire to protect Zoe but when things go wrong, all his level-headedness turns into desperation and I think that’s something we can all relate to.

Blumhouse has a really great track record with these kinds of films- how was it working with them? Did they just let you step out on your own and make the film you wanted to?

David Gelb: Blumhouse was very involved but to a degree, they were pretty hands off too just because once it came time to start shooting the movie, they just let us do our thing. It was a bit of a challenging experience because of the budget but honestly, after making a documentary, any kind of budget is really a luxury (laughs). But, we all owe everything to Blumhouse because they do have such a high standards for filmmaking that they made sure everything we needed, we had at our disposal.

Jason, Blumhouse has had a pretty strong track record over the last few years- is it the fact that you guys keep doing different things the secret to the successes you guys have enjoyed lately?

Jason Blum: You know, it doesn’t always go so well so you just have to keeping trying new things and finding great stories to tell. I think also because we have a good mix of theatrical titles and our BH Tilt films, that also helps us release films of all sizes. We’ve got a great team of people at Blumhouse who are pros at identifying projects that have amazing potential and we’re very lucky in that regard. Horror is always going to be huge part of what we do a Blumhouse but I also enjoy that we do things like Whiplash or The Normal Heart because those are great stories to tell too.

You guys have some pretty big sequels coming up in the near future- Insidious, Sinister and the third Purge- is there a bigger pressure when you have to do a follow-up? And for The Purge, we’ve followed protagonists for the other two films so I was curious if you guys had thought about maybe exploring the antagonists more at some point in the franchise?

Jason Blum: We have thought about that, actually, because that would be an interesting new way to explore the world of The Purge; in fact, we had two ideas for the third film on which direction we wanted to go and I can’t tell you yet what decision we made but following some of the ‘bad guys’ was definitely on the table.

Are you guys talking about any sequel plans for The Lazarus Effect yet or are you waiting to see how the film does first?

Jason Blum: I would love to do a sequel to The Lazarus Effect but that depends wholly on audiences and whether or not they come out for the film. I do think this is an incredibly rich concept that could be explored in a lot of different ways and we have a hundred ideas on what the sequel would involve but ultimately, it’s up to the fans.


  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.