The middle of the night, a couple waking to find masked intruders watching them in their bed, the man brutally beaten to death, the bloodied woman chased screaming down the road outside.
Lensed like a nightmare with grainy slo-mo, warped sonics and witching-hour gloom, that terrifying opening looks like it could have been plucked from the cutting-room floor of her father’s Lost Highway.
In fact, Jennifer Lynch’s brutal mysterythriller pivots around a daylight slaughter on the deserted two lane blacktop. Five people were killed by masked maniacs. Three survived.
But as FBI agents Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond drive into the hicksville sheriff’s station to interrogate the traumatised witnesses - a female junkie (Pell James), a little girl (Ryan Simpkins) and a wounded cop (co-scripter/producer Kent Harper) - they discover three versions of events.
Video cameras roll in the interrogation rooms, expectations spin, violent total-recalls pile up and Lynch’s Rashômon-style whodunit mutates through flashbacks into a dark, minor pleasure.
Fifteen years ago, Lynch was a debut director being cut to pieces for her Golden Raspberry-winning horror-comedy Boxing Helena. Here, the writer/director is infinitely more confident, more colourful and - let’s say it - more Lynchian.
In an oddball cast of spring-coiled miscreants, Ormond (Inland Empire) and Pullman (Lost Highway) both remind us they’re not strangers in Lynchland.
But best of all is Lynch’s wicked instinct for black humour, exemplified by Harper and French Stewart as a fabulously twisted pair of cops. The film’s killer twist is signed, sealed and telegraphed. But swallow Surveillance as blood-black comedy and you’ll find Jennifer is definitely her father’s daughter.
Twisted with black comedy, off-kilter performances, unsettling sound design and jolts of violence, Jennifer Lynch’s eminently Lynchian psycho-thriller is far better than its fairly predictable final rug-pull.