“SIMON KILLER” (Movie Review)
A sociopathic odyssey, SIMON KILLER is less explicit horror and more the true nature of psychological thriller. Simon is unknowable; his intentions, actions, words and the truth behind them, unknown. This, in effect, is terrifying.
When Antonio Campos’ deliberate camera isn’t focused on Simon’s enigmatic behavior, it finds brief interludes in a cool blue wide look at Paris. But it always dissolves to red, before giving way to a mad strobing. It’s, much like Simon’s actions, abrasive and enthralling at once. It’s also most likely how Simon sees. How he’s disengaged and icy, how he’s frightened or mad or depressed, how he’s erratic. What Simon truly wants is frustratingly out of reach, because by the end—one chilling moment of many—the viewer is unsure if any genuine emotion was displayed.
Maybe in Simon’s sexual antics is where you can find his true self. Often one-sided, Simon seems to find a perfect match in a prostitute. She’s also disillusioned and disengaged—you may even be feeling that way, too—but as we all find out, no one is on his level. After Simon stages a brutal beating, Victoria (Mati Diop) takes him in, reluctantly giving over to his neediness. Simon is intensely dependent. His prelude to sex comes from “just wanting to look,” followed by a severe hugging of his partner’s torso. Simon’s getting as close to the womb as he possibly can. At the same time, he’s fickle. His fascination and need for Victoria is severed in the blink of an eye as he catches a glimpse of another Parisian girl who’s struck his fancy; her lower torso, also examined.
Simon’s father is never discussed. His mother appears once, consoling via Skype. She still cares and wants to see him thrive, if no one else will. He reaches out for affection, or some sort of bridge with the ruined relationship he’s run away from. He writes and rewrites e-mails to a “Michelle,” using small words to change his tune, to seem better than he is, or she thinks he is. We never know what truly happened when she decided to leave, but as the film progresses, Simon seems less reliable on the matter. He seems less reliable on every matter, even his time in school. He perfectly recites an area of study, never organically explains.
Though often deliberate in aesthetic, Campos is also playful in direction and especially musical choices, using the melancholy grooves of Spectral Display and LCD Soundsystem throughout. Early on, in his first bits of dialogue in fact, Simon recants what brought him to Paris. Campos’ camera slowly draws in and out. The viewer engages, empathizes, until Simon seems too callous, too dismissive. Campos is forever manipulating the audience’s identifications, as often as Simon manipulates those around him. Then, in the aforementioned exchange with Simon’s mother, the director unfolds the scene in a JEANNE DIELMAN-esque static view of his main subject in the kitchen, as we objectively watch him break down. Simon, the audience and SIMON KILLER are always off-balance.
SIMON KILLER will undoubtedly be referred to as a slow burn, but like Campos’ previous film, the truth is it’s cracking. It is unexpected and fascinating and because of such, constantly suspenseful. In just its looks and phrases, it is frightening enough.