A NECESSARY DEATH
Reviewed by: Andre Manseau
What's it about
"Documentary Filmmaker looking for suicidal individual to follow from first preparation to final act." Cut from 142 video tapes, this project sheds light on the tragedy following the infamous Internet ad.
Is it good movie?
I'm generally not huge on mockumentaries. I don't mind a bit of
docudrama every so often, but for the most part, give me real or give
me totally phony. With that being said, I'm happy to say that A
Necessary Death was a mockumentary that I won't soon forget, one that
sent chills up my spine that I won't soon be able to shake.
Essentially, this is a flick about people offing themselves. Gilbert is
trying to come up with a film for his thesis and decides to study
death. Not just death mind you, but the potential suicide of someone he
knows. He is going to cover, in great detail, the thought processes and
actions of someone who intends to punch their own ticket. Along with
his friends/crew Michael and Valerie, there's Daniel, the mysterious
dude behind one of the cameras (the one the audience sees).
They find themselves a terminal brain tumor patient and settle on his
case because he's clearly going to die and wants to do so before his
quality of life diminishes greatly. The whole film is about walking
that ethical line between right and wrong (and yes, legal options are
explored in the film), the literal line between life and death and what
is acceptable. I mean, are we playing god doing this? Is the crew
egging on the man's eventual death? Are they playing a part in this;
And the cool thing here is that the movie doesn't drown itself in
worrying about the guy who's going to kill himself. Instead, we get to
see all of the moving pieces. The whole movie isn't simply doom and
gloom, and the characters are fleshed out enough to make it believable.
The whole thing feels eerily real and the disjointed attitudes of some
of the characters can be unsettling and downright haunting at times.
The cast even use their real names. They're roundly quite excellent
too, and have to pull of some hefty performances. Special props to
Matthew Tilley, the individual who plays the victim in this one. The
dude really has to run through a lot of feelings and pulls it off well.
I mean, the whole thing can be a nerve-wracking experience that feels
wrong as you watch it. How can people stand there and be passive while
a man literally contemplates taking his own life? We know that this is
film, but how can people avoid trying to stop the whole thing from
finally happening? Do we condemn the crew, or applaud their gumption
for tackling the taboo, but perhaps potentially inevitable suicide of a
terminally ill man? Knowing that the end goal is to make money- does
that derail the whole project?
I know I might be waxing philosophical here, but this movie made me
think. A necessary death raised a healthy debate in my neck of the
woods. There are so many legal and moral questions raised by this one,
but it seems awfully believable along the way (aside from a somewhat
overdramatic last bit). One of the most admirable things about this one
is that it really doesn't try to sell based on a gimmick- it's not out
to exploit the subject, poke fun at it or be insensitive about it. This
is a flick that will leave its audience with questions they must answer
Video / Audio
Video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen that left black
bars on my TV. It's a bit washed out and grainy, but that's the look of
Audio comes in Dolby Digital stereo but again,
isn't anything special. Think "student project", but it works just fine.
If you love deleted scenes,
there's a whole whack of 'em here, almost 40 minutes worth. They add a
fair amount of extra story to the film, but it's leaner without 'em.
There's also an alternate ending
presented, and it was in my opinion, inferior to the original one.
You can also enjoy two audio
commentaries. The first track features director Daniel Stamm,
and is heavy on the technical stuff and provides lots of details. If
you're looking for a more "fun" track, listen to the one with cast
members G.J. Echternkamp, Valerie Hurt and Matthew Tilley, who get
along well and have a good rapport.
Rounding out the disc are two trailers
for the film.
This one was created before Stamm's last big-budget effort, the Last
Exorcism, and I much prefer it. It's dark, but if you can get past the
tough subject matter you'll give your brain a good workout.