Nerd Alert issued for The Lazarus Effect and Neill Blomkamp vs. Alien

By Christian Carvajal on February 23, 2015

Rethinking that bite of Weyland-Yutani cornbread, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.


The Lazarus Effect stars Mark Duplass, Donald Glover and Olivia Wilde, three actors I like. There is nothing else to highlight about this picture. It's a horror movie. You know: a horror movie. It's every contemporary horror movie. Will a woman's eyes turn jet black as she makes asthmatic exhaling noises? Will a character record supernatural events on a 1990s-era camcorder? Will our hero be startled by the lunging reappearance of a pet? Do I even need to answer these questions? It's about oh who cares. Y'know, now that I think about it, a movie about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead has serious potential as a horror movie. The Lazarus Effect, however, does not.

A recent trending headline on Facebook read, "Joyland Amusement Park: Kansas park's stolen clown found in convicted sex offender's home, police say." That headline is scarier than anything in The Lazarus Effect. That headline, in fact, is scarier than anything I've ever seen ever. It should be made into a horror movie starring Mark Duplass, Donald Glover and Olivia Wilde. Then, it should be buried and the earth around it salted, because nothing that evil should be allowed to exist. A year later, Mark Duplass, Donald Glover and Olivia Wilde could be given their own sitcom about life on the set of a run-of-the-mill horror movie. That sitcom would be charming. It'd also be scarier than anything in The Lazarus Effect.

It was recently announced that Neill Blomkamp will direct a sequel to Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece of interstellar grotesquery, Alien. Blomkamp is the South African-Canadian auteur (based in Vancouver, B.C.) behind Elysium, the modern genre classic District 9, and next weekend's promising Chappie. Before that, he was lead animator for Dark Angel on Fox. His promo shorts for Bungie/Microsoft's Halo almost netted him a feature set in that techno-militaristic future. When funding for Blomkamp's Halo fell through, we were denied his take on a 'verse that owes a ton to James Cameron's 1986 sequel Aliens, which both Blomkamp (and I) admire deeply. While Chappie was going through post-production, Blomkamp concocted ideas for a sequel that'd feature Sigourney Weaver's Ripley and Michael Biehn's Hicks, despite the fact that both characters were killed in Alien3. (Ripley was reanimated in the ill-fated four-quel Alien: Resurrection.)

Over the last 18 years, the Alien franchise has fallen on hard times. Scott returned to that domain in his sporadically entertaining Prometheus, yet ignored the so-called "Xenomorph" parasite designed for him by Swiss surrealist H. R. Giger. Thanks in large part to its pop-cultural ubiquity, the Alien now seems scarier in claustrophobic computer games than in amplified blockbuster cinema. While Blomkamp's concepts offer glorious fan service, it should be remembered that Cameron's sequel owes much of its success to how far it strays from its predecessor. While Scott made a locked-mansion slasher film in space, Cameron wrote and directed a Vietnam-style combat movie in which the villains were undeniably slaughter-worthy. So what scares us now? What kind of Alien movie should Blomkamp make? I think it's clear we need to see something new, but something that flows logically from where we went in at least the first two films. (I, for one, would be happy to retcon this series by ignoring everything since 1986.) I think the solution underlies John Hurt's memorable demise aboard the Nostromo, Jeff Goldblum's dive into the gene pool in the 1986 remake of The Fly, and Sharlto Copley's degeneration in District 9. So what scares us now? Why, the realm of the medical.

So why won't that cut heal? Am I catching a faint, putrid whiff of sub-enamel tooth decay? Did I spend too many hours in a tanning bed? As we get older, and God knows we Alien fans have been doing that, it's the slow ruination of our bodies that keeps us up nights. I think it's time for the Xenomorph to crawl back under our skin.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and remember to nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.