August 18, 2009 (U.S. DVD)
Jennifer Lynch and Kent Harper
Julia Ormond as Elizabeth Anderson
Bill Pullman as Sam Hallaway
Pell James as Bobbi Prescott
Ryan Simpkins as Stephanie
French Stewart as Jim Conrad
Kent Harper as Jack Bennet
It is a bad day in ultra-rural Nowheresville as it appears a serial killer is on the loose. In the aftermath of a bloody roadside death spree the survivors huddle in the local police station and await the arrival of FBI agents Anderson and Hallaway to lead an investigation.
As the agents set up their video cameras and engage those involved in various interviews it becomes clear that there is much more going on behind the scenes than anyone confesses. The witnesses and survivors have their own versions of events leading up to the roadside massacre while the viewers are treated to more factual renditions on the screen. Something else becomes clear as the story progresses – this is no ordinary whodunit.
The lines the characters speak are just a little too strange. The mannerisms of the redneck cops are just a bit too exaggerated and cartoonish. The whole thing, really, is more like a twisted dream than a crime drama. Anyone familiar with the David Lynch creations Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvetor television series Twin Peaks has a sense of what I’m talking about here. No wonder these elements have spilled over into Surveillance – Writer/Director Jennifer Chambers Lynch is none other than David Lynch’s daughter. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The twisted strangeness of the script isn’t the only draw of this film. The performances are incredibly quirky and off the wall. Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman as the FBI agents are just priceless – serious, professional… yet there are always a few things that are just not right. The young Ryan Simpkins as Stephanie is simultaneously innocent, sad, cunning and conniving. The “crack-head with a heart of gold” performance by Pell James is also a standout.
Surveillance has a severe twist at the end, but it doesn’t really come as a surprise. It seems as if clues to the true nature of the crime scene investigation a telegraphed a good 30 minutes before the grand unveiling, but Lynch does a good job of giving away the “surprise” in such a way that individual viewers can bask in a secret belief that they alone were able to “figure it out”. Did Lynch create this on purpose, or did she merely give too much away too early? The world may never know, but I choose to believe that I figured it out ahead of schedule because I’m just that brilliant.
Surveillance packs shocking gore, disturbed characters, suspenseful unveilings and a satisfying pace into one hell of a horror shocker. Jennifer Lynch is progressing nicely as a filmmaker, albeit in line with her father’s style. She has certainly come a long way since playing that little girl in Daddy’s whacked-out film Eraserhead in 1977.