Lazareth (2024)

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Lazareth (2024)

In the woods outside of a remote cabin, three people gather around a table for dinner. Their hands are folded and they are saying grace, but not to God. They thank the cabin which Ashley Judd’s character Lee has named Lazareth instead, for being their protection, food, water and home. “It’s more than a place,” she says. “An idea. A world within a world.”

Theirs is the only world there is. We hear Lee tell Maeve (Sarah Pidgeon) and Imogen (Katie Douglas) about before; before people lived in cities and towns and filled their time with mindless distractions. Then came the virus, which shut everything down. People got sick and died; those who survived went feral.

The walls of Lazareth are covered with mementos from before: little trinkets that give it that cozy touch if not for the chaos they represent beyond the front door. Every time Lee comes back from searching for supplies in her full-body hazmat suit, she has to strip off her gloves and mask so they can be burned. Her whole life is spent keeping the girls safe physically and emotionally protected from all knowledge of what lies beyond these trees. When they ask if they can go with her sometime, she tells them no: “I spare you things,” she says flatly. “You stay here and frolic in the woods and that is as it should be.”

But eventually we see them grow up into teenagers (Douglas as Imogen, Pidgeon as Maeve), who have been so protected by Lee that they have had no choice but to know nothing other than that the world is deadly dangerous out there.

This movie deals in three age-old themes that intersect constantly throughout storytelling because they’re universal to human experience and hard to figure out: The first is what all parents/caregivers must face in trying to shield their children from fear and sadness here ratcheted up by the post-apocalyptic terror of the virus, and compounded by other survivors’ savagery. Lee wants to scare the girls enough to keep them from leaving Lazareth, but not so much that they don’t feel safe staying with her there.

The second theme is the thin membrane of civilization. What humans are left have been reduced to whatever it takes to stay alive. “Nature showed them who they really were and now they survive on what little they can find,” Lee says. Some people will survive on what they can take from others; some will survive on stopping them from doing just that.

Including Lee herself. When the movie begins, a desperate woman bangs on the door of Lazareth clutching a picture of two small boys (her sons). She’s begging for food when she scratches her shoulder and gives away that she’s infected contagious. Lee shoots her without a second thought nearly without blinking at all.

It’s not just what’s happening outside the third theme of the film is growing up, which presents its own dangers. Imogen and Maeve are first seen as little girls, played by Sarah Pidgeon and Katie Douglas for most of the film they’re teenagers. When they find an injured teenage boy named Owen (Asher Angel of “Shazam!”), adolescent feelings of rebellion and sexuality come to the fore: They hide him in Lazareth, sponging him off and cleaning his side wound while marveling at his muscled torso.

The scenes of peril and confrontation are effective in terms of suspense and disconcertingness. In earlier sequences, the candlelight and creaks in the cabin’s wood are reassuringly homey until they signal the invasion of violent scavengers.

The themes are so universal that they instantly connect with viewers, but producer/star Judd and writer/director Alec Tibaldi treat them with sincerity but little depth. The movie is about mood more than anything else.

Also On Putlocker.

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