Sunday, March 1, 2009

Surveillance (2008)

At a glance:
Director Jennifer Lynch pulls out all stops to present a gruesome tale of sadistic serial killers; for the first two-thirds, it’s an intense thriller, but it turns pointlessly ugly and nasty for the finale

Our review:
In an un-named area of the US mid-west, two sadistic cops get their kicks from shooting tires on passing cars, then torturing the drivers about speeding. These two guys are sick enough, but they look like saints compared to the other pair that is about to intersect their lives: a couple of world-class sadistic serial killers. The local cops get help in solving the case from a couple of visiting FBI agents: Sam Hallaway (Bill Pullman) and Elizabeth Anderson (Julia Ormond). Hallaway and Anderson spend most of the film conducting and/or observing ongoing interviews with the survivors: a young girl (Ryan Simpkins), an older druggie teen girl (Bobbi Prescott), and one of the sadistic cops (Kent Harper). There are the usual conflicts between cops and FBI trampling on each other in the same case and jurisdiction, and quit a few secrets waiting to be revealed. Surveillance is muddled at times, but is also intense and captivating – at least until its final third, when it grows so sick and bleak that it leapt out of the area that I consider an acceptable story.

I was lured into watching this film because I enjoyed Jennifer Lynch’s last feature, 1993’s Boxing Helena (which was only partially sadistic and had some elements of fantasy to salvage it). Surveillance is all reality: a no-holds-barred sadistic, gruesome tale. Lynch is unquestionably good at building suspense, but in the end, the story is so negative, sour, and gross, that it is hardly worth watching (except of course for fans of sick and perverse death). I don’t see the purpose in making fictional movies about events that actually could be worse than what has happened in real life. No matter how stylized it is, do we really need more ugliness in the world for its own sake? If you were able to stop watching two-thirds of the way through, you would have a good bloody thriller – after that, it becomes too depraved for my tastes. There’s nothing wrong with the performances, however; Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond both take to their roles with frightening gusto, and the supporting cast of unknowns are sometimes a little awkward, but that works. Rating: 1 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"The film takes an interesting premise and manages it to cram it through a meat grinder until you’re left with something that you wouldn’t really want to eat in the first place."
-Kevin Kelly (Spoutblog)

"I may be perverse, but after a David Lynch movie I feel elated, with a renewed zest for life; after this film I felt queasy, not with the horror of the story, but at the cheapness of its world view. It's an ugly thing."
-Sheila Seacroft (Floatation Suite)

This review was the winner of the prestigious 'Best Moron Child Review' for 2009! See the comments for more details!


  1. this movie may have been (absolutely) poor, but this site's review was completely childish... as in a david lynch movie, i felt like i was dreaming as i read this review... was it written by a 14-year old? ...Or was it written by an adult in a media forum where adults who cannot think as proper adults are given an opportunity to say whatever they want?
    It was a terrible movie, but not in the way you thought it was. You should be ashamed of yourself. (but you probably won't be, because you're such an idiot.)
    Can we be given the option of reviewing the reviews? What's wrong with you people? ... 'these two guys look pretty sick, but they look like saints compared to...'
    This is the first and last comment i'll ever write on this site, but if i could leave one thought with the author of this piece: 'you write like a moron child. i can't believe i took the time to look over your review, which reads like a report i wrote about Number Munchers in fifth grade.'

  2. i'll admit, this movie was terrible, especially as a huge David Lynch fan.

    More than anything else, this review was awful... it reads like my 'review' of The Scarlet Letter in eighth grade. 'um, it was like, awkward, and um, stupid, and the bad guys were really bad, but (emphasis:) it was super sad in the super sad parts, so it was a stupid movie... but it was also good in the good parts... with 'gusto'.' (even when I was in eighth grade I knew better than to use the word 'gusto', except with the most bitter irony)
    The writer of this article should be ashamed of his/herself.

  3. ross, please don't be so down on yourself! I am sure your report on Number Munchers in the fifth grade, and your review of the Scarlet Letter in the eighth grade were wonderfully eloquent and filled with more gusto than you care to admit. Rather than denigrating your own work, please publish it on the web so thoughtless angry people can bash it and make personal attacks on your intelligence level while they hide behind a profile-less pseudonym!

  4. i agree with author...ross - grow up!

  5. Cut whoever wrote this review's fingers off, put the digits in a ziploc bag, and beat them with it.

  6. Thanks for confirming my review, Anonymous - regarding the type of person who would think this is a good film - someone who is entertained and amused by sadism for sadism's sake.


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