LAZARETH Review: Tense, Intense Survival Thriller Hits One Too Many Familiar Beats

Lead Critic; San Francisco, California
LAZARETH Review: Tense, Intense Survival Thriller Hits One Too Many Familiar Beats

Teens and hormones. Together, they’re responsible for the realization of any number of worst-case scenarios.

Once activated, however, they’re the perfect catalyst for drama in all its permutations, up to and including writer-director Alec Tibaldi’s (The Daphne Project, Spiral Farm) latest film, Lazareth (a Biblically inspired portmanteau of “Lazarus” and “Nazareth”), an efficient, economical, if somewhat predictable, survival thriller set in a post-pandemic, apocalyptic future. It’s those same pesky hormones that throw a relatively stable household into disarray, conflict, and eventually violence.

Lazareth’s main selling point, Ashley Judd (always welcome, too often underseen and underused), essays the singularly named Lee, a single woman who unofficially adopts her two nieces, Imogen (Katie Douglas) and Maeve (Sarah Pidgeon), just as the outside world goes to the obligatory heck in a hand-basket, the result of a deadly plague that all but wipes out humanity, sending the survivors from the overcrowded, virulent cities to the relative safety and sanity of the people-free countryside.

It’s there that the resourceful, strong-willed Lee fashions a homestead, the Lazareth of the title, a literal cabin in the woods surrounded by a bucolic countryside with fresh running water nearby. Over the better part of a decade, Lee, Imogen, and Maeve survive as an interdependent trio. On occasion, Lee, fully kitted out in a hazmat suit, gloves, and boots, ventures back into the city to obtain much-needed supplies while her nieces remain behind, literally keeping the home fires burning, the laundry washed, and their daily chores completed.

It’s a state of strained stasis that doesn’t — and won’t — last. Echoing the Clint Eastwood-starring, Don Siegel-directed 1971 Southern Gothic, The Beguiled, the entry of a male character, Owen (Asher Angel, Shazam!), discovered wounded and bleeding out by Imogen and Maeve during a day out in the woods, throws the central relationship between the trio into rapid, repeated disequilibrium. Wary of outsiders and driven by an almost messianic zeal to save her nieces from the contaminants of the outside world, Lee balks at Owen’s presence. Still, his wounds make it difficult for Lee to convince Imogen and Maeve to send him back to the outside world, where death surely waits.

Those aforementioned hormones eventually come into play when Imogen begins to experience an undeniable physical attraction to Owen as she tends to his wounds. Maeve's changing perspective, fueled by her jealousy of Imogen and Owen’s physical intimacy and what it could mean long-term for Maeve and Imogen’s bond as sisters, adds an additional layer of conflict between the three women and their unexpected guest. Both Lee and Maeve strongly prefer a return to the pre-Owen status quo ante; Imogen certainly doesn’t; and Owen, naturally driven by his survival instinct (among other instincts and desires), functions as a narrative wild card.

Not content to resolve the conflict between the central characters organically, Tipaldi adds an external, Dawn of the Dead-inspired threat, a twenty-something biker gang eager to locate Owen for a reason (or reasons) that only becomes clear in the third act, turning what’s been essentially a survival drama into a homestead-invasion thriller. That switch feels like a bit of a letdown (because it is), but between Tibaldi’s assured, taut direction, grounded, persuasive performances from the cast, and one or two provocative ideas, Lazareth emerges as a worthy, worthwhile addition to an ever-evolving genre.

Lazareth opens today (Friday, May 10), In Theaters and On Demand.


  • Alec Tibaldi
  • Alec Tibaldi
  • Ashley Judd
  • Katie Douglas
  • Asher Angel
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Alec TibaldiAsher AngelAshley JuddKatie DouglasLazarethSarah PidgeonThriller

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