2008 Certificate: 18

Synopsis

Jennifer "daughter of David" Lynch channels her dad's dark style into this nightmarish crime thriller. Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman are two FBI agents who arrive in a small town police station to interview witnesses to a violent event involving a serial killer they've been tracking. As they piece together what went down, the terror closes in. A blood black noir in the tradition of Lost Highway and Breakdown, buckle up for a bumpy ride through murder and mayhem.

Director

  • Jennifer Lynch

Cast

  • Bill Pullman

  • Julia Ormond

  • Pell James

  • Ryan Simpkins

  • Kent Harper

  • French Stewart

Review

1993's Boxing Helena, Jennifer Lynch's first film as director, was so bad that Surveillance marks only her second feature.

The good news is, this tricksy, twisty horror movie is clearly the work of David Lynch's daughter and buries completely the bad memories of Helena.

Opening with a shocking scene of home invasion and murder commited by a masked intruder, Lynch keeps the unease bubbling through a slowburn first half hour and ramps up the panic as the story unfolds.

FBI agents Hallaway and Anderson (Pullman and Benjamin Button's Ormond) pull up in a small town, possibly somewhere in the Midwest, to interview three witnesses to a violent crime on a deserted stretch of highway.

The MO is similar to killer's they are pursuing, and one of the the witnesses may have seen more than they realise. Problem is two of them have reason to be creative with the truth.

Highway cop Bennet (co-producer and writer Harper) was injured in the crime, and his partner (Stewart) fatally wounded. But, moments before both had been terrorising a family after shooting out their tyre and haranguing the dad for speeding.

Also caught up in the horror is drug-fiend Bobbi (James), sky high when she and her boyfriend narrowly avoid slamming into the family's station wagon.

Only the family's little girl, Stephanie (Simpkins) has nothing to hide, and she has seen and continues to see more than anyone else.

As the three relate their stories, Agent Hallaway monitors the interviews on the CCTV cameras, looking for clues that could give them away.

With David Lynch having taken up permanent residence in his own dream logic (see Inland Empire for details) it is heartening to know that another member of the Lynch mob is making movies for big audiences.

Surveillance may brim with violence and unease, but it's a puzzle box film you'll have grim fun solving.

Lynch uses the threatening, wide open plains to generate dread and tension and shifts the mood from black comedy to panicked alarm with cool confidence.

Lynch, Sr. is on executive producing duties, and Lynch, Jr. borrows some of his trademark tics - twitchy performances, bursts of graphic violence and dangerous sex, an aggressive soundtrack - but moves between the three stories skillfully, dropping clues for a third act surprise.

Those with little time for such Lynch classics as Wild at Heart and Blue Velvet won't be converted, but audiences who like horror that scrambles their heads will be happy Jennifer is daddy's girl after all.