Reviews

Necessary Evil

Michael Curtis Nelson

This has none of the fluidity and irony of a successful parody or genre send-up like Repo Man.


Necessary Evil

Director: Peter J. Eaton
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Kathryn Fiore, Gary Hudson, Richard Riehle, Eric Feldman
Distributor: Lionsgate
Rated: R
Year: 2008
US DVD release date: 2009-07-28

“Be careful what you wish for”, cautions the first of many cliché-laden voiceovers in this profoundly bad film. Tell me about it. I wished to review Necessary Evil. I’ll be more careful next time.

A team of mercenaries hired by Dr. Fibrian (Lance Henriksen) capture a supernatural creature in a tomb near ancient Babylon. It infects one of the party, Frank Sanders (Gary Hudson), and after some experiments, the doctor discovers the rejuvenating power of the creature’s blood.

Sixteen years later, the plot turns to follow Deborah Fielding (Kathryn Fiore), a journalism student in the early stages of pregnancy. When Dr. Fibrian’s not roughing someone up or kidnapping children and subjecting them to cruel procedures, he conveys in more voiceovers that Fielding is the next stage of the experiment begun with the expedition. (How Fibrian knew to look for the creature in the first place, and many other mysteries in Necessary Evil such as the meaning of the title, are never explained.)

Fielding begins taking the drug Reficul, marketed as “a replacement for spinal epidurals during childbirth”, but which supposedly also works to combat morning sickness. Her thesis research uncovers alleged abuses involving Reficul at Edgewater, Fibrian’s psychiatric (natch) hospital, and possible corruption involving the FDA and Gordian Labs, who developed the drug and are about to hold an IPO.

We learn that Sanders, whose own supernatural powers have helped him become CEO of Gordian, is in cahoots with Fibrian, and that they both regularly shoot up Reficul. Meanwhile, detective Russo (Eric Feldman) is trying to solve the case of a girl who disappeared 16 years before.

Any ten-year-old with parents sadistic enough to let him watch this movie would figure out within a few minutes that Reficul is Lucifer spelled backwards (it took this reformed ten-year-old about fifteen). And yet, impossible as it is to believe, the revelation of the fact marks one of the climaxes of this maddening film. I say one of the climaxes because there are several, each matching its own plot thread.

In addition to the investigative journalist plot, there are: the Jason Bourne plot, which reveals Fielding to be a trained operative fluent in multiple languages and programmed with a false past; the Rosemary’s Baby plot, which suggests that Fielding is carrying Reficul, I mean Lucifer; the Faustian, mad-scientist in search of the fountain of youth plot that gives us the annoying Dr. Fibrian (Nairbif? Oh, never mind), and the evil corporation forcing a dangerous product on an unsuspecting public plot.

Before you say “postmodern pastiche” or “playfully self-mocking”, let me observe that Necessary Evil has none of the fluidity and irony of a successful parody or genre send-up like Repo Man; instead it feels like parts of four or five bad movies with the same cast clumsily edited together. Fibrian’s smug voiceovers do nothing to make the parts cohere.

Necessary Evil also lacks the vitality that sometimes (intentionally or not) animates low-budget films with amateurish supporting casts. Director Peter J. Eaton attempts to push the film into camp with some retro components like Fielding’s ‘50s-style television, and with cartoonish color, especially the syringes filled with glowing, neon-green Reficul, but for the most part pedestrian set and art decoration characterizes Necessary Evil.

While there are some good turns by character actors in small roles, such as Richard Riehle as Captain Parsons, Feldman, who co-wrote and co-produced the film, should have stayed behind the camera. His Russo lacks the gruff swagger the character requires. Danny Trejo is wasted as Fibrian’s strong man.

The leads can’t save the film, either. Fiore, veteran of MADtv and Reno 911, tries to play her role for laughs, but it’s a vain effort. Henriksen is as irritating as fingers scratching on a chalkboard in his reputation-withering performance. At times he seems to intentionally sabotage scenes by alternating between affectless acting and hamming.

If you’re at all tempted to watch this movie, take two Reficuls, and call me in the morning.

2

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