Domination’s the thing in Jennifer Chambers Lynch’s gleefully twisted vision of authority gone wrong. From every angle, Lynch (director of Boxing Helena, another story of lost power) envisions a universe revolving around exploitation. The FBI agents (Pullman and Ormond) who arrive at a rural police outpost where two dead bodies have been discovered look down their noses at the local cops, who themselves regularly rob from citizens while on the beat. Even the witnesses struggle with issues of control: Stephanie (Simpkins) is sick of being the little girl no one listens to; Bobbi (Pell James) is a manipulative junkie, willing to do anything to save her hide; Jack (Kent Harper) is the crooked policeman now paying the price.
There are hints of Rashomon here, with three witnesses offering conflicting testimonies and sloppy flashbacks instantly poking holes in their stories. But the movie’s real punch doesn’t come from distorted memories so much as deranged minds. Something is decidedly off about the small town—and about the shifty Feds, who slowly transform from the people in charge to monsters on one hell of a complicated power trip. The many devils in Surveillance don’t just want money or blood; they take pleasure in seeing you squirm, and that’s precisely why this nightmare gets under your skin.—S. James Snyder
Opens Fri; Cinema Village. Find showtimes