Directed By Daniel Farrands
Starring – Mena Suvari, Taryn Manning, Nick Stahl
The Plot – Inspired by true events, follows OJ Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson (Suvari) in the last days before her tragic death on June 12, 1994, as seen from her point of view.
Rated R for some strong bloody violence, adult language, sexuality and brief drug material
– Cast decisions. Even with the terrible direction of Farrands doing them no favors, the front-and-center lead cast does a serviceable job at bringing to life these vibrant figures, both in the visual and audible capacities. Suvari channels a mentally disfigured side of Nicole that establishes a hearty level of empathy not only for her character, but also for the questionable decisions that leave her helpless. On top of that, Stahl also immerses himself in the mentality of the Casanova Killer, combining disjointed line reads and long unnerving stares to previously establish something seriously wrong with him before it ever comes to light. Also, Farrands love for slasher horror is presented in some deep cuts casting involving Tracie Savage and Larry Zerner, who are known for their memorable turns in “Friday the 13th: Part 3”. It’s a subtle homage to make sure the audience is paying attention, and sadly was probably the biggest positive that I pulled from the film as a whole.
– Established setting. Thankfully, I give the movie credit for not inserting a series of visual props and likenesses to rub against its 90’s setting, opting instead to use carefully deposited documentary style footage to grasp sociological commentary for the time. The footage itself is full of twice as much exposition as this actual movie, and is edited for a layer of style and consistency that is also sadly not present in Farrands motion picture. It feels as though someone else was given the responsibility of pasting everything together for the film’s meaningful prologue and epilogue, and summarizes everything about this case that makes it a still sought after property, even after twenty-five years since its inception.
– Tasteless. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the same man who penned and directed last year’s worst film, “The Haunting of Sharon Tate”, is the same one who commands yet another shallow, disrespectful film in the means of substance-free slasher horror. Farrands distorts the factual truths of the case, and blends them with the paranormal genre rendering that avoids placing the blame on the movie’s two different killers that it spends so much ample time documenting in their sinister realities. This is not only insensitive to the families of victims Nicole and Ron Goldman, but also influences audiences into thinking the former’s decisions with an array of lovers and minimal time for her kids is the reason why she ended up the way she did. We need less films like this in Hollywood, as they’re so much more than just bad films, they are ones the practically stomp on the hollow grounds of the deceased who are incapable of being here to defend themselves.
– Laughable special effects. There is only one in the film, but the obviousness of its enveloping stands out like a bratwurst in a balloon, and reminds audiences how cheap this whole production really was. There’s a scene involving the Casanova Killer burning a car to get rid of evidence, and instead of carefully setting a car on fire like most movie productions would do, this one shoots the scene in a way where the fire is separated in the foreground, while the car is nestled safely in the background, thus making it appear that the car is on fire, when in reality it’s a cheap effect to maintain its budget. This is Ed Wood levels of bad cinema, and made even more unnecessary when you realize how little of heft this sequence actually plays on the rest of the movie. It’s a scene that comes out of left field, and caps it off with an effect of a high-schooler being given his first project in film class.
– Lukewarm dialogue. This is the kind of obvious dialogue that makes its intention known repeatedly and immediately, and takes away the immersion of this feeling like an actual conversation between two living, breathing characters. Throughout the film, characters repeat their names frequently in the very same conversation, revel in lines of hilarity that are only funny because someone actually took the time to craft them off-screen for a serious demeanor, and lingering awkwardness that does no favors establishing the chemistry between any two respective characters at any given time. It’s the kind of exposition-heavy lines that allude to its intention long before the audience has a shred of chance to distinguish for themselves, and cements the problem with Hollywood screenplays that require a writer to spoon-feed their audiences because they feel they are too stupid to pay attention. Of course in this case, I wouldn’t blame said audience.
– Haunted film. Even beyond its paranormal ideal that it tries to sell as a true story so vibrantly, the film’s audio mixing or A.D.R is some of the worst that I’ve ever seen. The usual suspects are present, like dialogue being heard from a character with their backs to the screen, yet their mouths are never moving, jumbled audio that was pasted together for a smoother read but just come off mumbling the line, and uneven audio levels that make the two characters in frame feel like they are in completely different environments. But in addition to all of this, that one you only get in a truly awful production is present, where you hear other people in a scene that only features two people. Call it co-producers in the studio, or spirits that plagued the film’s amateur production, but the rushed nature of this film is made all the more apparent when stuff like this is left in its finished product, taking an 80 minute film and turning it into 90 with the many rewinds that I just had to have to prove that I wasn’t hearing things.
– Padded. Speaking of the film’s unambitious run time, it too is a negative hurdle to the amount of informational responsibility it is trying to convey with this case. As to where 80 minutes would normally be a blessing on a bad film, the lack of transferring momentum between scenes makes this as dull of a watch as you’re going to get in January, and one scene in particular points to how little the editors could’ve left on the cutting room floor to reach its motion picture minimum. The scene I am referring to is one where Nicole accidentally hits her son with a car door, when they’re outside of it waiting to get in. This scene is not only left in, but acknowledged with a line read by Nicole where she says “Oops, sorry baby”, cementing that the whole instance was intentional. If this isn’t enough, the documentary style footage that I previously mentioned spans out five total minutes when added together, thus allowing it to reach its goal by piggy-backing on outside footage that doesn’t factor in to the film’s originally written material.
– Lack of subtlety. The same thing that doomed Farrands previous film is doubled down upon this film, this time in the form of eye-rolling props and psychological premonitions that take any ounce of unpredictability away from the film. Nearly every character in the film is driving a Ford Bronco, the very same vehicle that O.J Simpson went on the run in against the chasing authorities, two characters get to know each other while pouring themselves glasses from the single biggest pitcher of Orange Juice (Get it?) that I’ve ever seen, and a repeat of the name “Charlie” meant to tie the film’s narrative argument all together. This pales in comparison to the heaviness of Nicole’s frequent delivery to other characters that she fears for her life, and will ultimately end up dead. That last one is one of many similarities it shares with “The Haunting of Sharon Tate”, and wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t repeated so frequently. But because it does, it removes any of the spontaneity associated with murder, and when combined with the film’s unoriginal title, makes so much outside of the titular scene nothing more than irrelevant build to the bigger picture.
– Horror plagiarizing. I can understand that in 2020, because of so many films in the genre, certain scenes are going to duplicate from its predecessors. However, when the scene in question is so memorably unique to the particular property, it makes the intellectual theft all the more alarming. I can commend Farrands for paying homage to a horror series as legendary as “A Nightmare On Elm Street”, but ripping off the scene in the first movie, where a character is killed by an unforeseen presence dragging and slicing her up a bedroom wall, is every bit as obvious as it is desperate by its inclusion. The context of this scene in this film sets it off down a road of paranormal that was previously not established in the film, and makes this initial outburst feel like you’re watching a completely different film from the previously established slasher subgenre. On top of that, Farrands can’t direct it with half of the intensity or vulnerability of a film made 36 years prior, making the technological advances of this film all the more inconsequential because of its inferior rendering.
– Anti-climatic finale. Considering the whole film builds to this inevitable confrontation, where we the audience will hopefully learn something new about the night in question, the pay-off isn’t even remotely satisfying for an array of reasons. (SPOILERS HERE) First, the killer is masked up for no reason at all. We never find out if it’s OJ or The Casanova Killer, or anyone else in Nicole’s inner circle. So the who is never fully realized. Secondly, the abrupt nature of its permanence takes place in a single minute, with no bit of struggle or anxiety directed into the scene to make it riveting. Finally, the brutality of the violence itself is disgusting, considering these are real life victims we are watching suffer before our very eyes. It illustrates an unnerving feeling in watching this go down that we probably shouldn’t be given access to, and offers a complete lack of satisfaction from even delving into this cancer tumor of a film on cinematic organs.
My Grade: 2/10 or F-