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Three people sit down to dinner at a remote cabin in the woods. Before they eat, they fold their hands and say grace. But they are not thanking God; they are thanking the cabin itself, which they have given the Biblical name of Lazareth, and which Lee (Ashley Judd) describes as their source of protection, food, water, and home. It is “more than a place, an idea, a world within a world.”

It is their only world. We hear Lee tell Maeve and Imogen about the time before they lived in Lazareth, when “people lived in cities and towns and people filled their time with mindless distractions.” But then came a global virus, and all systems collapsed. Those who got sick died. Those who survived became all but feral.

Lazareth is lit by candles and filled with mementos of the time before the virus. It is almost cozy, or it would be if not for reminders of the chaos of the world outside. Every time Lee returns from a trip to find supplies, in full hazmat protective clothing, she must strip off her gloves and mask so they can be burned. Lee’s whole life is devoted to protecting the girls physically and emotionally. When they ask about going with her, she says, “I spare you things. You stay here and frolic in the woods and that is as it should be.” They are very young girls when the movie begins, but soon we see them as teenagers, with Katie Douglas as Imogen and Sarah Pidgeon as Maeve. They have been so protected by Lee that they know nothing about the world other than that it is too dangerous. 

This movie combines three perennial, intersecting themes, all frequently explored in fiction and film because they are central to human experience and difficult to navigate. The first is the conflict faced by all parents and caregivers in trying to protect children from fear and sadness, heightened here by the post-apocalyptic terror posed by the virus and the savagery of other survivors. Lee wants to scare the girls enough to keep them from leaving Lazareth but still make them feel secure and safe as long as they are there with her. 

The second is the fragile veneer of civilization. The small group of humans who survived the virus have been reduced to whatever it took to stay alive. Lee explains, “Nature showed them who they really were and now they survive on what little they can find,” she says. We will see some survive on what they can take from others and some on stopping them.

That includes Lee. As the movie begins, a desperate woman comes to the cabin clutching a photograph of children and begging for food. Lee is about to give her a couple of cans of food when she sees the woman scratch her shoulder, indicating that she is infected and contagious. Lee unhesitatingly shoots her. 

It's not just what is happening outside that makes it difficult to protect young people. Growing up presents its own risks, the third theme of the film. We first see Imogen and Maeve as little girls, but for most of the film, they are teenagers, played by Katie Douglas and Sarah Pidgeon. When they discover an injured teenage boy named Owen (Asher Angel of “Shazam”), adolescent feelings of rebellion and sexuality surface. They hide him in Lazareth, marveling at his muscled torso as they sponge him off and clean the wound in his side.  

The scenes of peril and confrontation are effectively suspenseful and unsettling. In early scenes, the candlelight and creaks in the cabin’s wood are reassuringly homey, but they are terrifying when they indicate the invasion of violent scavengers. 

The themes of the film are so resonant that they create an immediate connection with the audience, but producer/star Judd and writer/director Alec Tibaldi address them with sincerity but not much depth. The film is more about mood than insight. 

Nell Minow

Nell Minow is the Contributing Editor at

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Film Credits

Lazareth movie poster

Lazareth (2024)

86 minutes


Ashley Judd as Lee

Sarah Pidgeon as Maeve

Katie Douglas as Imogen

Christine Uhebe as The Traveler



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