I’m a dumbass. This week, I chose to give into my worst instincts and watch the VOD equivalent of an online troll. That movie was The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. The movie has been a lightning rod for criticism the past few months and I was curious what all the fuss was about.
The director, Daniel Farrands, did a few horror movie documentaries I liked, and he wrote a Halloween movie (granted it was a jumbled mess called Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers.)
He also recently directed two reviled true crime-meets-horror films that I’ve yet to see, 2019’s The Amityville Murders and the notorious The Haunting of Sharon Tate. Both films posit theories or alternate universe type stuff around tragic events.
This may be Farrands’ wheelhouse because The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson posits a theory that she and Ron Goldman may not have been killed by her former NFL superstar husband, O.J. Simpson. Farrands suggests that even if O.J. had anything to do with it, he had help in the form of real-life serial killer Glen Rogers, aka The Casanova Killer.
We begin at a birthday party for Nicole (played by one-time Charleston resident Mena Suvari). After a thoughtful, maybe 10-second shot of her laughing and smiling, I was thinking, “Maybe this is a case of people losing their shit for no reason. Maybe this will be a loving, nuanced take on a life cut short.”
Any pretense of that vanishes quickly in favor of blunt, on-the-nose foreshadowing of the cold reality of Nicole’s fate.
Not 10 minutes in, we see her stare at a white Bronco and later say something to the effect of, “I’m worried one day he’s going to kill me and get away with it.”
One minute later, Nicole’s friend, Kris Kardashian (played by Agnes Bruckner), says her husband Bruce couldn’t make it to the party because of a fundraiser he’s attending. Another friend, Faye Resnick (Taryn Manning in what I’m assuming is a wig) replies, “What a drag!”
In between jogs with fellow future victim, Ron Goldman (Drew Roy), and therapy visits, Nicole meets Glen Rogers (Nick Stahl) and ultimately hires him to paint her house. Not long after shunning the advances of Resnick (the film suggests an affair between the two), she has sex with Rogers.
Later, a post-coital Rogers is naked, seemingly talking to “Charlie.” He tries to kill Nicole, then leaves. From there on, Nicole Brown Simpson is stalked in a sparsely attended outlet mall and makes a couple more eye-roll worthy comments about being dead while Rogers murders someone else.
Then, out of nowhere, in a dream sequence, Nicole is being attacked and dragged across the ceiling. Why Farrands, who also directed the Nightmare on Elm Street series documentary Never Sleep Again, wanted to reference an iconic scene from the first Nightmare film I’ll never understand. It’s a pointless reference.
Normally I’m pretty adamant about not spoiling movies out of severe respect for the experience but since this movie didn’t seem to have much respect for its audience and even less for the subjects, screw it.
The last 40 minutes play out like an extended death march. The murders occur in graphic detail. Then we’re treated to footage from 1994 including the chase, the trial, and most tastefully, the crime scene. Then we’re shown footage from Glen Rogers’ arrest. That’s followed by footage of O.J. mentioning a guy named Charlie … and, then we cut back to footage of Stahl’s Rogers being questioned by detectives on a leftover Law & Order: SVU set. The film ends with credits scored by the very real 911 phone calls from the very real Nicole Brown Simpson reporting her husband. The end.
This movie has the visual aesthetic of a cable TV movie loaded with stock music that reduces a real-life tragedy to a cheap Lifetime thriller with slasher tendencies. It’s a shame that Stahl’s return to movies after a six-year absence is on a movie like this. Speaking of actors, Suvari is listed in the movie as executive producer but, interestingly, not on IMDB. I’m genuinely curious what the draw was for her. Are she and Farrands actually Glen Rogers truthers? Was this a passion project? Or was this something more cynical than that?
I don’t know which is better, a stupid movie that thinks it’s saying something important or an empty troll hellbent on provocation disguised as a movie. Either way, it’s not particularly good.
The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson — Rated R. Directed by Daniel Farrands. Starring Mena Suvari, Nick Stahl, Taryn Manning, Agnes Bruckner, and Bianca Bree. Love Best of Charleston? Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
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