By Jude Cole (Portland, OR)
In Phil Newsom’s Simple Mind, it’s the powerful performance of Timothy J. Cox that’s the real highlight. His turn as a serial killer is a subtle mix of gentle charm and chilling malevolence.
Bob (Timothy J. Cox) is a man with a lot on his mind and as it turns out, his mind is not a pleasant place to be. You see, he’s a serial killer. As a matter of fact, in his mind…he’s the best serial killer there is.
In Phil Newsom’s 7 minute short, we delve into Bob’s not so pleasant mind, where there’s nothing simple about it at all. There are lots of surprises about this man and in Newsom’s film, even as a short, it’s a film filled with many surprises, most surprising of all is that it is a genuinely terrifying look into the mind of a serial killer.
The film called to mind, specifically, John McNaughton’s marvelous 1986 feature film thriller Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer, which starred an absolutely chilling Michael Rooker as the title character. Like McNaughton’s film, Newsom’s Simple Mind shows us exactly what makes Bob, the killer, tick.
As the film begins, we see Bob awaiting the arrival of a potential new love in his life, Samantha (Kristi McCarson) an experience he recounts to his therapist, a setting where the bulk of the film takes place. At first glance, you may think of Bob as a typical average Joe, just trying to meet the woman of his dreams, but you do get the feeling right away that all is not well with this guy. As soon as Samantha opens the door to her apartment, Bob flashes a charming smile, although we the audience know that something very bad is about to happen.
Films and television shows about serial killers are all the rage these days, thanks largely to Dexter. As a fan of true crime, I’ve read several novels on several famous killers, especially Ted Bundy and one characteristic that links many of them together is a certain precision that they all employ(ed) in their “work”. Most startling of all is that many of them were very quiet, even indifferent and the thought of that quiet and indifference frightened me more than anything.
Bob was quiet and is therefore, a truly frightening and fascinating character, one that I’d love to see explored further in a feature. In the short, Bob is expertly presented by indie actor Timothy J. Cox. Cox, a veteran of several films, is known primarily as a supporting actor, but here he takes the lead and gives it his all, presenting a character of great complexity, shifting from calm, almost sweet-natured to cold, callous, yes indifferent, but also quite methodical. It’s quite the achievement that this actor was able to present such a diverse character in such a short amount of time.
Not a perfect film. There are several technical issues, mostly in the sound department, but Paul Nameck’s camera work is to be commended for its style and flair throughout.
Director Phil Newsom also penned the script and as previously mentioned, it’s filled with some delicious twists and turns.
Shot on a very small budget, with a crew that consisted only of Newsom, Nameck, Cox and actress Kristi McCarson, Simple Mind is independent filmmaking at its finest.
Simple Mind does not have a website, but the film is available for viewing on YouTube here.