The plot of “Nefarious” isn’t particularly unique. Diving into the mind of the insane serial killer is a trope that has been done time and time again, yet this title character truly is memorable. Sean Patrick Flannery delivers a gut-wrenching performance as the title character and, quite frankly, the dialogue between him and his co-star is what makes “Nefarious” a distinctive gem among a tired genre.
“Nefarious” opens with a man sitting alone at a desk in a luxurious office. We see that the man is Alan Fischer, doctor of psychiatry, according to the diploma on the wall that he gazes at before leaving the room. He gets into an elevator looking defeated. The shot returns to the empty office, and a distant scream is heard before Dr. Fischer is seen falling past the window.
We later learn that Dr. Fischer was responsible for evaluating Edward Wayne Brady (Flannery), a serial killer on death row. The psychiatrist’s job is to determine whether or not Brady is mentally competent enough to be executed, or if he’s just a deeply disturbed and troubled man that could be rehabilitated through medication and therapy. Fischer’s evaluation of Brady is what allegedly drove him to commit suicide. The psychiatrist hired to replace Fischer, Dr. James Martin (Jordan Belfi), arrives at the prison and is briefed on Brady. The warden tells him: “By the time he’s done with you, you’ll have your head so twisted around that you’ll think you’re the killer.”
Dr. Martin and Brady sit together at a small table in an ominous, vacant room that’s blocked off from the rest of the prison by a huge, steel gate. The next 40 minutes of the film take place in this room, with Martin evaluating Brady. Brady claims to be a demon by the name of Nefarious who has possessed Brady’s body and is the cause for the eleven murders that Brady committed.
Brady, speaking as the demon Nefarious, tells Martin that by the end of the evaluation Martin himself will have committed three murders. Martin initially believes that Brady has dissociative identity disorder, and not that he’s attempting to prolong his life. But Martin’s opinion starts to change when Brady reveals that he’s aware of very personal, private information on the psychiatrist’s life.
“Nefarious” keeps us in continuous suspense with one looming question: Is the killer actually insane or is he attempting to convince his psychiatrists that he’s insane in order to evade execution? Or is he genuinely possessed by a demon?” The question is answered (don’t worry, we’ll keep this spoiler-free), but at the end of the film there are other questions that are left unanswered, which makes for a less-than-satisfying ending.
“Nefarious” is dialogue-heavy, with the vast majority of the film consisting of the evaluation of Brady by Dr. Martin. There are moments where the conversation drags, but Brady’s horrific and believable character is quick to regain the viewer’s attention. “Nefarious” is impressive in that it can keep the viewer in a constant state of suspense with nothing more than a long conversation between two men. All told, engaging writing and a terrific performance by Flannery are what make this dialogue-driven film thrilling and terrifying.