DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
A NECESSARY DEATH (director/writer: Daniel Stamm; cinematographer: Zoltan Honti; editors: David Kashevaroff/Shilpa Sahi; music: Morgan Kibby/Jonathan Leahy; cast: Gilbert John Echternkamp (Gilbert), Matt Tilley (Matt), Valerie Hurt (Valerie), Michael Traynor (Michael), Daniel Stamm (Daniel), Pamela Salem (Matt's mom), Konima Parkinson-Jones (Konima); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Brian Udovich/Gilbert John Echternkamp; Film Buff; 2008)

"An experimental faux documentary on the unpleasant subject matter of suicide."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Daniel Stamm ("The Last Exorcism") writes and directs an experimental faux documentary on the unpleasant subject matter of suicide, on being part of a voyeuristic society and on trying to determine what is the responsibility of the filmmaker in making a documentary.

Student filmmaker Gilbert (Gilbert John Echternkamp) for his graduation thesis from a film school in LA, places Craigslist internet ads to find a suicidal subject willing to be filmed for his student project film while living out their last few days until willing to terminate their life on camera. An eloquent but bland young British expatriate, Matt (Matt Tilley), is chosen over others interviewed after he explains he has a cancerous brain tumor that cannot be operated on and will shortly die a painful slow death.

Daniel (Daniel Stamm), Gilbert's roommate, agrees to shoot the crew making the suicide film. The film crew-- sound technician Val (Valerie Hunt), cinematographer Michael (Michael Traynor) and director Gilbert--become friendly with the subject, even meeting his mom (Pamela Salem) at her home. But Gilbert's ex-girlfriend Val has seconds thoughts about the project's ethics and decides to talk Matt out of killing himself by becoming his lover even though she doesn't love him. It works. Matt decides not to go through with the suicide, which upsets Gilbert because he'll have no film to turn in for graduation and a slimy media company in Austin backed-out of producing the film when told of the new happy ending--which will leave Gilbert unable to redeem his own money he already put in the film when the film school refused to fund such a contentious film.

By the third act most in the audience should be able to figure out this is a fictitious story pretending to be a documentary and with little reason to follow through on its exploitative premise. At that point any feelings for the characters should dissipate, as the pic becomes overwrought in melodramatics and filled with plot contrivances similar to a TV soap opera. Instead of following through in dealing with the controversial issues over suicide, the film turns into a safer yarn that stops trying to understand its subject as if he were a real person and the ersatz story line becomes less compelling and testy and more concerned with its suspenseful twists. Though, in all fairness, Mr. Stamm's "Death" should be commended for at least trying to push the boundaries of film-making for most of the film.   

REVIEWED ON 5/31/2012       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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