Many movies have tried to deal with what makes a man into a murderer all with varying degrees of success. From Psycho to American Psycho and from Deranged to Dark Tourist looking into the mind of evil has fascinated film makers for centuries.
In Simon Killer it is clear that writer and director Antonio Campos is just as obsessed with the subject of psychopaths however the titillating title is somewhat misleading as main star Simon actually never kills anyone.
That said the film delves deeply into the motivation and mind set of a man who is seemingly nice and normal on the outside but harbors a dark and disturbing personality underneath.
Simon (Brady Corbet from Marcy May Marlene) is a handsome college graduate who takes a trip to Paris to mend his broken heart after breaking up with his long-term girlfriend.
When he gets to the city of love he finds only loneliness and isolation and after wandering around purposelessly he ends up in a sleazy strip club where he meets a young prostitute named Victoria (Mati Diop) who he takes to instantly.
After attempting to leave the city and being beaten up and robbed Simon ends up without any money or friends and seeks solace with Victoria who takes pity on him and takes him in. However as the pair start a passionate physical relationship the true psychological turmoil that rages underneath Simon’s docile exterior is exposed and he takes Victoria down a path of brutal pain and anguish destroying the lives of everyone around him in the process.
A brilliant portrait of a sociopath Campos’s film focuses so completely on Simon that we are drawn into his lies and depict as entirely as the characters around him. Like Chained and Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer by spending so much time with him we can’t help but feel a small amount of sympathy for him even though it’s clear that there is something very wrong going on inside his unhinged head.
Brady Corbet’s performance is excellent balancing just the right amount of creepy intensity with genuine charisma making it all the more realistic a portrayal of someone capable of brutality and cold blooded ruthlessness. The rest of the cast are also great and very naturalistic especially Diop who is sadly doomed as soon as she meets Simon.
The subtle almost improvised performances are counter poised with the artistic styling’s of the movie but the grimy and extremely graphic sex scenes and violence push the movie further into the realms of realism making it all the more effecting and disturbing.
Released as part of the Masters of Cinema series the Blu-Ray is packed with excellent extras including behind-the-scenes and rehearsal footage, extensive interviews with Antonio Campos and producers Sean Durkin and Josh Mond, one of Campos’s early Palme d’Or nominated short films and a booklet featuring a new and exclusive essay by critic Karina Longworth.
Setting aside the misleading title Simon Killer is an extremely effective and unsettling portrait of a sociopath with gripping performances and although its more art house than horror it is still a shocking and scary character study.