Simon (Brady Corbet) is a college graduate from New York, who travels to Paris following the break-up of his 5-year relationship with girlfriend Michelle.

His French pal enjoys a brief exchange with Simon, before setting off on travels of his own and handing over his apartment's keys to his friend.

But life in France, living alone temporarily in a friend's empty flat, is boring and lonely for Simon. He wanders the streets at night aimlessly and alone. He divides his time at home between wanking to porn sites and emailing Michelle with white lies about he's coping without her. All of the while, his only companions are the electronic indie songs he listens to on his headphones.

While out wandering the streets one evening, he's enticed into a bar where even the girls are on the menu. Initially awkward around the beautiful Noura (Mati Diop), he calms somewhat when she proffers sex and takes him into a back room where they can consummate their relationship and charge the act to his credit card.

Simon simply wants to masturbate while gawping at Noura's naked frame. She clearly sees him as a surprisingly easily pleased punter, and suggests he can see her outside of the club too - for the same fee, of course. This he does, and they do have sex.

However, some people tend to get awfully attached after swapping bodily fluids with someone. In this instance, Simon reaches the end of his stay in France and conveniently gets beaten up by thugs at a Parisian train station. He turns at Noura's club shortly afterwards and says he needs a place to stay - laying it on thick, he tells her she's his only hope.

Noura takes Simon in. Initially as a lodger and a pal. But as time goes on, their relationship becomes sexual and before long Simon has hatched a blackmail plot that will potentially free Noura (or "Victoria", to her clients) from the need to prostitute herself.

But this ploy brings with it its own problems. Coupled with the mystery of Simon's past (the stories he tells people often contradict each other) and his occasional tendency to blow his otherwise overly passive cool - not to mention the film's title! - it's not long before the viewer is left suspecting this is not going to end well.

Director Antonio Campos co-wrote SIMON KILLER with Corbet, and together they have developed a rather fascinating, slow-burning character study of a highly questionable individual. Simon is never likeable - he appears to be vulnerable to begin with, yes, socially clumsy, certainly - but there's something constantly 'off' about him. It's credit to the co-writers and Corbet's performance, then, that Simon's lack of warmth never turns the audience away: as much as we grow to hate this character, he remains compelling.

Part of this is due to Corbet's acting, but part of it is down to his character's varying degree of success at deception. On the one hand, he plays a slow game both with Noura and his later mistress Marianne (Constance Rousseau), appearing desperate at first to gain their affections but eventually manipulating them to the point that he can run rings around them. On the other hand, his lies are often so badly spun that both women are quick to challenge them - and he's not very good under pressure.

A dark history is alluded to in subtle hints throughout Simon's story - we don't know quite what's happened previously (or indeed what the truth is) but we know from a relatively early stage that this character is capable of disturbing behaviour. His subsequent relationships, then, with two lonely women are unsettling in impressively plausible fashion.

SIMON KILLER is filmed in an unusually voyeuristic fashion. Campos opts for a lot of handheld footage, often filming behind people as they walk or settling his camera on a character while they're sat, and then leaving it there when they stand up - so the remainder of those scenes play out with us looking at a character's midriff. It's an odd aesthetic choice that creates an interesting paradox in that it farms both detached and intimate results.

Ostensibly a slow film, SIMON KILLER is actually riveting if you allow yourself to succumb to the beautifully claustrophobic camerawork, Universally fine acting and that unpredictable, free-flowing feel it gives off which is so reminiscent of 70s cinema.

A very dark film, don't however go into SIMON KILLER expecting a gory horror. The 18 certificate on the cover is there for copious nudity and a couple of graphic (non-hardcore) sex scenes). Is it a horror film at all? I'd argue yes, an urban one along similar lines to TAXI DRIVER...

The film is presented uncut in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced. The transfer is clean, sharp and blessed with a satisfying amount of depth. Colours are strong, blacks are stable - there's nought to grumble about here. I'd be interested, however to see how the blu-ray fares in terms of increased detail.

I can say the same about the 2.0 audio track, which is very reliable throughout. Dialogue comes in equal parts English and French, with the option of well-written English subtitles for the French dialogue, and English SDH track (available via the main menu only) which covers all dialogue.

Eureka's disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, a static scene-selection menu allows access to the film via 11 chapters.

Extras begin with an "experimental" 20-minute Behind-the-Scenes montage of handy handheld footage, all of which looks pretty good but lacks the insight of any decent narration. Epileptics should be aware of this featurette's penchant for strobe lighting (the odd effect is also employed, sparsely, in the main feature).

Far better is a 15-minute Sundance interview with Campos and his two producers, Sean Durkin and Josh Mond. This is a light-hearted affair, but no less informative for it.

"The Last 15" is a Palm d'Or nominated short film from Campos which successfully ridicules middle-class American values while exploring in 17-minute intensity a dysfunctional family - the Kirklands - quarter of an hour before they sit down for dinner and the shit hits the fan. Echoing John Waters, Richard Kern and even Francois Ozon's early work, it's a cheap but affecting piece of work.

A 6-minute chat with Corbet, Campos and their mothers is bizarre and funny - along with revealing a rather telling inspiration behind the 'thumb-up-the-arse' scene in the film. Campos is at his most likeable in this candid feature.

"The Case of the Conscious Camera" is a 29-minute interview with Campos, conducted by Zach Wigon. It appears to be being held across a kitchen table, and is as weird and unprofessional as it is weirdly effective and generous. In it, Campos discusses the aesthetic set-up of specific scenes in the film.

The film's original 2-minute theatrical trailer is deceptively fast-paced, but pretty accurate overall nevertheless.

Also included in this release but unavailable for review is a booklet containing a new interview with Campos and liner notes by critic Karina Longworth.

SIMON KILLER is an unusual film, but one that does get under the skin to reward repeat viewings. Is it a masterpiece? I'm not convinced yet, but do feel compelled to revisit it at least one more time.

The disc from Eureka is an excellent one.

Also available on blu-ray.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Eureka
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review