Violence in film is so common movies routinely compete to outdo their predecessors with bigger, bloodier kills. Surveillance reverses this trend by taking one violent act and slowing down the audience’s perception of the event until they are forced to reexamine what witnessing violence means to those left behind.
Two FBI agents (played by Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman) force the survivors of a horrible crime to explain what happened, in detail. Separated into different rooms and recorded electronically, the witnesses display the emotional scars they have already endured before taking the audience through the crime. Detail by detail, Surveillance builds the tension until the crime actually occurs, and nothing will be the same for anyone involved.
Director Jennifer Chambers Lynch captures the stark beauty of a small town day, and then the tension (from a script she co-wrote) becomes almost unbearable as she builds to a rare and beautiful thing in horror films – a sunny day nightmare. The plot twists are vulnerable to spoilers, but Surveillance is so well-crafted it cannot be spoiled, and is worth watching twice, when all its surprises are gone.
Surveillance boasts an excellent cast. Ormond and Pullman are great, but dramatic performances by Cheri Oteri and French Stewart may be the most pleasant surprises in the film. French Stewart is particularly creepy in his role, and proves he could headline a horror film if ever given the right opportunity.
Jennifer Chambers Lynch is often compared to her famous father, David Lynch. Surveillance establishes her own directorial vision and technical merit. The film is haunting and disturbing in equal measures; it is alternately terrifying and saddening.
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