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A NECESSARY DEATH
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Reviewed by: Andre Manseau

Directed by: Daniel Stamm

Starring:
G.J. Echternkamp
Matthew Tilley
Valerie Hurt

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
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; influencing it?

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 themselves.
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 the film.

Audio comes in Dolby Digital stereo but again, isn't anything special. Think "student project", but it works just fine.
The Extras
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.
Last Call
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.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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