You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


Over-the-top, violence-laden shocker "Surveillance" should have gone straight to ancillary, where it might have been discovered and feted by a few cult-fare obsessives.

With: Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, Ryan Simpkins, Cheri Oteri, Michael Ironside, French Stewart, Kent Harper, Caroline Aaron, Gill Gayle, Hugh Dillon, Charlie Newmark, Mac Miller.

In a righteous world, over-the-top, violence-laden shocker “Surveillance” would have gone straight to ancillary, where it might have been discovered and feted by a few cult-fare obsessives as a mildly amusing trifle with one of the genre’s dafter plot twists. However, pic’s presence at the 2008 Cannes fest cellophanes pic with more class than it deserves, inviting possibly ungenerous thought that it was programmed just because it’s helmed by Jennifer Lynch (whose only previous feature was 1993’s “Boxing Helena”), daughter of the revered David Lynch. Nevertheless, watch and see if “Surveillance” doesn’t end up pretty quickly in the bargain bins.

Action kicks off in an unnamed small burg in the middle of a desert. A couple is attacked in the night by two masked serial killers, who quickly despatch the husband and do something unseen but no doubt nasty to the wife.

Later, FBI agents Elizabeth Anderson (Julia Ormond) and Sam Hallaway (Bill Pullman) ride into town to take over the investigation of a recent mass shooting on the highway, sure that the perpetrators are the same killers they’ve been stalking. At the police station, the surviving witnesses and various implausibly unprofessional cops are assembled in rooms where the agents’ video cameras record the interrogations.

Story switchbacks between the cool-toned present and supersaturated flashbacks as each interviewee, “Rashomon”-style, recalls what they saw. Lying about how he and his dead partner’s (French Stewart) own taunting of motorists had a hand in the mayhem, Officer Jack Bennett (Kent Harper, pic’s co-writer along with helmer Lynch) tells his version. This differs somewhat from the accounts given by cokehead Bobbi Prescott (Pell James), whose b.f. (Mac Miller) was killed, and little girl Stephanie (Ryan Simpkins), whose whole family was wiped out by the same two masked killers that killed the couple in the pre-credit sequence.

Ludicrously unrealistic details (like the idea that the Violent Femmes’ sweary but rousing tune “Add It Up” would be playing on an American radio station, even a college rock one) and hammy overacting (by Harper especially at first, but topped later on by Ormond and Pullman) distract as story plods along, and then goes into an out-of-control tailspin with the twist’s revelation.

Helmer’s use of creepy sound and stabby little insert shots of creepy stuff recalls her father’s work in earlier films, but without being truly unsettling, or even all that scary. Horror fans are likely to guess the twist and feel bored; the more faint-of-heart may simply feel repulsed. And bored.

Tech credits are OK, but nothing special. Locations used are actually in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Popular on Variety



Production: An Arclight Films, Blue Rider Pictures (U.S.) presentation of a Lago Film (Germany) production, in association with Film Star Pictures (U.S.). (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Kent Harper, David Michaels, Marco Mehlitz. Executive producer, David Lynch. Co-executive producers, Gary Hamilton, Jeff Geoffray, Walter Josten. Co-producer, Stephen Onda. Directed by Jennifer Lynch. Screenplay, Lynch, Kent Harper.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, video-to-35mm), Peter Wunstorf; editor, Daryl K. Davis; music, Todd Bryanton; production designer, Sara McCudden; costumes, Cathy McComb, Sonja Clifton Remple; sound (Dolby Digital), Michael Playfair. Reviewed at the Cannes Film Festival (Midnight Screenings), May 22, 2008. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: With: Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman, Pell James, Ryan Simpkins, Cheri Oteri, Michael Ironside, French Stewart, Kent Harper, Caroline Aaron, Gill Gayle, Hugh Dillon, Charlie Newmark, Mac Miller.

More Film

  • "Jade Dynasty" in front at the

    China Box Office: 'Jade Dynasty' in Front Ahead of Mixed Competition

    With “Jade Dynasty” in front, Chinese-made action and Asian animation films led the way at the China box office over the past weekend. Although a few American titles are in play, they’ve failed to attract a crowd.  Chinese action fantasy “Jade Dynasty” led the weekend box office in its debut with $38.1 million, figures from [...]

  • The Painted Bird

    Venice Competition Film 'The Painted Bird' Is Czech Entry in Oscar Race

    Václav Marhoul’s “The Painted Bird,” which world premiered at the Venice Film Festival in the main competition and also played at the Toronto Film Festival in Special Presentations, has been selected as the Czech Republic’s entry for the 92nd Academy Awards in the international feature film category. The pic follows the journey of an unnamed [...]

  • Pakistan Picks Freshman Effort 'Laal Kabootar'

    Pakistan Picks Freshman Effort 'Laal Kabootar' as Its Oscar Entry

    Pakistan’s Academy Selection Committee has chosen “Laal Kabootar” as its candidate for the Oscars’ international feature film category. Directed by first-time helmer Kamal Khan, the gangland thriller set in Karachi’s underbelly follows the events that transpire when a woman in search of her husband’s killer is thrown together with a cab driver and petty criminal [...]

  • Atlantis

    Toronto Film Review: 'Atlantis'

    “It took you 10 years to cleanse this region of Soviet propaganda and myths,” says one character to another in “Atlantis,” going on to suggest that the devastation now left behind may never be “cleansed” at all. A strikingly bleak vision of a near future in which Ukraine has won its war with Russia but [...]

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    ABC Announces Behind-the-Scenes Special for Beyoncé's 'Lion King' LP

    ABC has announced a new behind-the-scenes look into the making of Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” LP, which is set to air September 16 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. Titled “Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift,” the new hour-long special will allow viewers to “experience the process” behind the “Lion King” companion album, according [...]

  • Jason Lei Howden, Samara Weaving and

    Daniel Radcliffe On Acting With Weapons Nailed To Your Hands

    How did “Guns Akimbo” director and writer Jason Lei Howden convince Daniel Radcliffe to play a character with guns nailed to his hands? Easy, he sent him the script. Radcliffe joined Howden and “Ready or Not’s” breakout star Samara Weaving in the Variety’s Toronto Film Festival studio, presented by AT&T to talk the limits of [...]

  • Box Office: It Chapter Two Maintains

    Box Office: 'It: Chapter Two' Continues International Reign With $47 Million

    Pennywise’s reign of terror hasn’t wavered: Warner Bros.’ “It Chapter Two” maintained first place on box office charts, led by another strong showing overseas. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s horror novel, generated another $47 million at the international box office for a foreign tally of $169 million. After two weeks of release, “It Chapter [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content