Thursday, January 11, 2018

Surveillance, We'll Take it From Here Boys

In the film "Die Hard," the LAPD has Nakatomi Tower surrounded, then two FBI agents show up.  The two Agent Johnsons tell the LAPD, "We'll take it from here boys." I was an FBI agent for 25 years. At new agent training, we were shown that scene. Through the 1980s, this was the FBI's reputation among local law enforcement. Then we got a new Attorney General, Janet Reno. Ms. Reno made inner city drug gangs the priority of the FBI. New FBI Director, Louis Freeh implored all of us to work with our local partners. We did and relations between the FBI and the locals greatly improved. 9/11 happened and a national security minded director Robert Mueller did much damage to these relations and the uber arrogant James Comey destroyed many of these relationships beyond repair. Jennifer Lynch and Kent Harper give us 2008's "Surveillance." This horror thriller speaks to the heart of the tension that exists in the FBI's relationships with their local partners....or does it?
A horrible pair of serial killers are murdering their way through the Midwest.  As our film begins, two FBI agents, Elizabeth (Julia Ormond) and Hallaway (Bill Pullman) arrive to interview witnesses of the latest carnage. The local police force is problematic.  Their officers are sadists and their chief (Michael Ironside) is in denial.  With sensitivity, Elizabeth interviews a survivor of the murders. Stephanie's (Ryan Simpkins) family was offed by the killers as she stood by defenseless. Interviews of Officer Bennett (Kent Harper) indicate the police officers who happened on the scene may have a lot to conceal.  Our FBI agents are condescending and the locals seem to deserve that treatment. As Elizabeth and Hallaway pull more information from the survivors, not all adds up.  In flashbacks we are treated to blood splattering carnage and cruelty.  Cruelty from the cops and, as you will see, the killers.
The FBI agents will face numerous difficulties in piecing together the crime scenes. Their witnesses are sadistic cops, a frightened little girl, and a skank high on drugs (Pell James). They are all traumatized and have lost loved ones in horrible fashion.  Elizabeth appears to have what it takes to draw information out of traumatized Stephanie, but Hallaway seems cold and rigid.  As the witnesses become combative, Elizabeth makes great strides in gaining Stephanie's trust.  Uh oh...Stephanie is a lot smarter than most adults.
Director Jennifer Lynch and writer Kent Harper have some surprises in store, and they won't make you smile with glee.  Experienced horror fans will see through the obvious.  Are the locals that incompetent and sadistic?  Are the FBI agents really as pure as the snow in Saskatchewan (this film was shot there)?  Exactly what did little Stephanie see, and is she really out of peril as the FBI agents promise her?  Strictly from my perspective as a 25 year FBI agent, "Surveillance" is a terrific metaphor for the fragile relations between the FBI and local law enforcement.  Gritty, gory, and perhaps sadistic in tone...enjoy "Surveillance," a serial killer tale that is just a bit different.


  1. I love Jen Lynch as a director ever since Boxing Helena. I saw this film years ago & quite liked it. Bill Pullman was becoming a badass around that time. Good review. I will have to see this one again.

  2. You got paid to watch Die Hard??? I shoulda joined the FBI!! I'm from a crap-hole I'd have eventually gotten a fake US passport!! Great review mate & I weirdly only revisited this last week, for the first time since its release which I caught at a horror festival at the time. I really liked it & its nicely done blend of black humour & brutality & Jennifer Lynch's last horror Chains, with Vincent D'Onofrio isn't bad at all either.

    Glad you liked this one I found it a quirky and rather overlooked little gem, great review again mate.

  3. Love this review & the film too! Gripping crime drama film that is very original! Really well done in front & behind the cameras!