Since the movie The Lazarus Effect came out earlier this year, I wanted to know: how is it?? It kind of looked really good. The cast is stacked and the plot is a fun play between religion and science. That sounds good!
Also, it’s directed by the guy who did Jiro Dreams Of Sushi.
Huh? One film is a favored food documentary that landed Gelb the Netflix food porn series Chef’s Table. The other is a PG-13 horror movie that came out in February with taglines like “death is not the end,” “evil will rise,” and “she came back from the dead…alive but possessed.” What is the connective tissue between the two? Is there any? Is one as good as the other?
Since Lazarus is on Netflix now (which shouldn’t be surprising because Chef’s Table…?), I gave it a watch. First, Mark Duplass looks beautiful because he always looks beautiful. Olivia Wilde is quite serviceable in her role, too. I’ve never seen her act in anything—but I like this! Donald Glover is also good and Evan Peters is Evan Peters. The only perk with that last one is that he’s not playing the same role he always fucking plays in American Horror Story.
The movie starts on with a very high level of production. The opening sequence draws you in with how good it looks and how spooky it feels. It sets a mood and is well designed. You also notice how good Gelb is with a camera movement and lighting, making movie mood with small flickers and pans back and forth. The result makes viewers feel like they are watching and being watched. It also reminds you of the patient watching he does in his food films, with tracking shots that wander with hands along tables. He can set a mood, that is certain.
Then this happens: the characters eat sushi!!! They literally eat a few rolls. Of course this isn’t acknowledged as an inside joke or even a culinary pick: they just eat sushi. Is he trying to connect these two movies? Is he trying to make a joke of Jiro’s hard work? Is this a gratuitous pat on the back or did a P.A. troll him with this as the food props and they went with it? Whatever the reason, if you know of his food film work, you will LOL HAHAHAHAHA at this. It is a funny moment.
Related to food, he does do a good job jumping from food porn shots to science porn. There are a lot of sexy shots of materials and scientific acts, which all bring you into the world and wonder how realistic the situation is. This is a great move in a horror movie because you always want to feel like a horror movie is real since the actions in the film will get so weird. This is a very suitable look for him.
Relatedly: he handles sound very nicely.
Then Olivia Wilde dies and shit goes everywhere. Her death is actually a very sad scene that Gelb handles quite nicely but, unfortunately, her death is when the movie dies too. Since she is the main character—which you very slowly realize, as the film takes her point of view—the narrative begins to unravel as she does. This wouldn’t be bad if it weren’t for her being the villain and dead: how can you be engaged if everyone else is just a toy? You can’t.
This also tosses the film into the most troubling territory: it’s a morality tale. You learn about this through dreams and “why” Wilde comes back from the dead. That “unfinished business” is what keeps her ticking in the afterlife. This would be cool if it weren’t an emotional letdown. You arrive at the conclusion and only have the energy for a flat, “cool.” That’s it. You don’t even care when twists come at you because the “business” involved is so blah. If shit was that fucked up in Wilde’s life, she would have been a bit crazier when she was alive and her clutching a cross wouldn’t be the only manifestation of her sordid past. It ends ridiculously doesn’t really matter because you will check out around the time Donald Glover dies.
So. Are the movies connected? Is one better than the other? Yes, in both regards. You can clearly tell that Gelb applies the same cinematic tricks in both films but, no, these films are not equals: Jiro is clearly superior. The one thing that makes you mad about this is that Gelb is a food film dude. He can have an interest in horror, sure, but why not tie the two together? Why didn’t he make a food horror film? Why wasn’t it about a serial killing chef who uses killer food to get to people or a cannibalistic chef who served customer’s bodies or anything that crossed the world of food films with horror films? How great would that be?
That would be a good movie. It would add to that small canon of foodie horror films left in the absence of The Ice Cream Man. Both genres are so in vogue: this makes so much sense. Gelb, I know what your homework is. I have faith in you.