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Film Review: Lazarus: Apocalypse (2014)

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SYNOPSIS:

George Lazarus, an insurance adjuster in 1957 Southern California, must investigate a $13M claim that could bankrupt his firm.  During his investigation, a terrible contagion breaks out and threatens to infect the United States.

REVIEW:

If you read about a movie called Hollywood Apocalypse or Lazarus: Day of the Living Dead, let it be known that it is now available on DVD under the new title of Lazarus: Apocalypse. Lazarus: Apocalypse is the first in a projected trilogy that loosely attempts to explain how The Living Dead (specifically, the zombies of George A. Romero’s black and white classic) came to be. It would also help the viewer to be well-versed in the Bible, Alfred Hitchcock (specifically 1960’s Psycho), and Night of the Living Dead.

Written and directed by Thomas J. Churchill, Lazarus: Apocalypse contains one of the most unnerving and one of the creepiest shots that I have ever seen in a horror film in quite some time. Before we get to that, the film begins with a line from the Bible, specifically Revelation 9:6 which states “And in those days men will seek death and will not find it…They will long to die, but death will flee from them.” During present day, an FBI agent (Serena Lorien) is questioning Marion Crane (Krista Grotte, a nice nod to Psycho (1960) who is looking out on to her lawn as a zombie eats a dog. It looks like just another day to her.

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Meanwhile, her husband (Brian Andrews of Halloween (1978) is dying in the bedroom, receiving his last rites from a priest (Kenneth J. Hall), and mentions the year 1957 in a broken voice. The action then shifts to that year in the Valley in Los Angeles (11 years prior to the outbreak in Pittsburgh) in black and white wherein a desperate woman commits suicide in a hotel room.

Bethany Loomis (Natalie Victoria) works for George A. Lazarus (Ray Capuana) who runs an insurance company. An unfortunate incident has transpired at the Deadly Sin Cigarette Company that requires that his company pay out $13M, which is an amount that would bankrupt any company at that time. Lazarus needs to know if fraud has been committed.

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There are several storylines that are told and intertwined, the contemporary opening of the story coming around full circle to the film’s end. Some of the performances that stand out are Brooke Lewis as a co-insurer who doesn’t mince words with Lazarus when she firmly tells him to investigate the $13M claim; Taylor Morgan-Lewis as Lucinda who does a full-on S&M session with a man who doesn’t really like what is being done to him; and Thomas Churchill as the owner of the Deadly Sin Cigarette Company who also used to be in the Mafia and is a bottom-line, money-is-all-that-matters kind of guy who threatens to kill an employee unless he cleans up the mess that will be the cause of the contagion that wreaks havoc on planet Earth.

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The film alternates between color and black and white and the latter scenes are mostly set to resemble the film noirs of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Tilted angles and shadows give an air of menace, and 1950’s bigotry is dealt with in an interesting way in a restaurant scene. The set design is one of the film’s strong points as it does an admirable job of recreating late 1950’s Americana with the sleek old cars from the era and the soda jerk who suggests that the recently apprehension of Ed Gein in Wisconsin should inspire a book.

Oh, and that creepy scene that I mentioned earlier? That occurs 73 minutes into the film as a woman contorts herself and races towards the camera. It gave me the heebie-jeebies and that was worth the price of admission alone.

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There are some neat extras on the disc. There is a fun commentary by director Churchill who talks about how the film came to be. My only complaint about it is that the audio from the film at times is a little too loud over the director’s comments and threaten to drown him out. His 45-minute short film The War Master, which was shot on VHS circa 1987, is tough to watch due to the reduced resolution, but it’s an interesting viewing nonetheless. There is mention of a sequel at the end, Intrigue: War Master Book 2, but no sequel appears on the disc.

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