The middle of the night, a couple waking in their bed to find masked intruders watching them, the man brutally beaten to death, the bloodied woman chased screaming down the road outside… Lensed like a nightmare with grainy slo-mo, warped sonics and frightening gloom, that terrifying opening looks like it could have been plucked from the cutting-room floor of her father’s Lost Highway. In fact, Jennifer Lynch‘s brutal mystery thriller pivots around a daylight slaughter on the deserted two-lane blacktop.
Five people were killed by masked maniacs. Three survived. But as FBI agents Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond drive into the hicksville Sheriff’s station to interrogate the traumatised witnesses – a female junkie (Pell James), a little girl (Ryan Simpkins) and a wounded cop (co-scripter/producer Kent Harper) – they discover three versions of events.
Video cameras roll in the interrogation rooms, expectations spin, violent total-recalls pile up and Lynch’s Rashomon-style whodunnit mutates through flashbacks into a dark, minor pleasure. Fifteen years ago, Lynch was a 19-year-old debut director being cut to pieces for her Golden Raspberry-winning twisted horror-comedy Boxing Helena. Here, the writer/director is infinitely more confident, more colourful and – let’s say it – more Lynchian.
Amped up with skin-crawling sound design, the film prowls forward on its eerie undercurrent of dread, off-kilter compositions and florid, squalid violence. In a oddball cast of spring-coiled miscreants, Ormond (Inland Empire) and Pullman (Lost Highway) both remind us they’re not strangers in Lynchland. But best of all is Lynch’s wicked instinct for black humour, exemplified by French Stewart and Harper as a fabulously warped pair of cops who get their kicks terrorising tourists on the highway. Think the midnight mirror-image of Superbad‘s slacker cops.
Truth is, the devil is in the detail rather than the depth. Not to mention the film’s killer rug-pull is signed, sealed and telegraphed. But swallow Surveillance as blood-black comedy and you’ll find Jennifer is definitely her father’s daughter.
Twisted with black comedy, off-kilter performances, unsettling sound design and jolts of violence. Lynch’s eminently Lynchian psycho-thriller is far better than its fairly predictable final rug-pull.
- Certificate: 18
- Director: Jennifer Lynch
- Starring: Bill Pullman, Julia Styles, French Stewart, Michael Ironside
- Screenplay: Jennifer Lynch, Kent Harper
- Running time 98 mins
Read the original article at Total Film.