Surveillance Blu-ray Review

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by Mark Botwright Aug 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review


    Surveillance Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £21.69


    Surveillance comes to Blu-ray sporting a 1080p image, encoded with the AVC codec and framed within a theatrically correct 2.35:1 aspect ration. The disc is region free.

    Low budget by many a film's standards, the look put forward by Lynch is one of contrasting styles and quality. The central part of the narrative, which takes place in the present, is generally good, with some nice shadow detail being evident in many of the darker interrogation room scenes. Once the camera moves into the surveillance room itself where Pullman sits, presiding over the interviews from his control room, the level of detail can fluctuate, with some blacks dropping to muddier levels. I can't imagine too much extra clarity could have been wrung from the source material but nevertheless, the fall in blacks as seen on Pullman's suit is less than stellar.

    The countering style used for the flashback scenes also brings with it both good and bad. The oversaturated primaries of Bobbi the junkie's story is bold to the point of searing the eyes and whilst this certainly gives the desired effect to the viewer of imparting her and her boyfriend's altered state of mind, a certain amount of detail is lost. What was more troubling was the significant blocking that was apparent during one such sequence, which not only crept into the finer elements of certain colours and textures but also intruded well into the bottom border of the 2.35:1 frame. I've yet to see such an occurrence which is quite as visible on Blu-ray, so it hardly needs saying that this is far from ideal.

    There are many positives contained in the visual presentation of Surveillance such as good delineation without artificial tampering during the brighter scenes, some sound shadow detail, strong contrast and skin tones that are kept surprisingly natural given the different lighting and film stock used. It may seem unfair to criticise for what is a minority of instances but when compression artefacts, digital noise and blocking that spreads from the image through the aspect ratio border to the bottom of the very screen itself raises its head, then the resultant score must reflect this. For low budget roots, this is 90% solid, but the mistakes are too glaring for me to put aside.
    Surveillance Picture


    Audio options are few, with the single offering on the disc being that of an English Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.

    Unlike the image, which is bold and brash, the sound is finely engineered to deliver unsettling ambience. There is little in the way of surround effects for the majority of the film, with the few occasions they are utilised being those moments of frenzied violence. The order of the day here is eeriness and subtlety that is supposed to slowly creep up on the viewer, which is something that is achieved extremely well. The swelling of noises that get under your skin are insidious by their very nature, which is at odds with a narrative and visual presentation that lacks similar finesse.

    Dialogue is well handled and remains clear and crisp throughout, shifting well from regular volumes to whispered asides. Bass isn't overwhelming but the very fact that relatively large periods of time go by without any loud noises helps to emphasise the impact of the low end when called into action. The balance between hushed moments of speech and flash shots of violence accompanied by sharp screams is well orchestrated, with neither seeming out of kilter with the other in terms of volume. The few gunshots that litter the film are incisive and have a nice difference between them depending on the weapon, angle of the viewer and surroundings. Such tightness of orchestration helps to create a believable atmosphere from what could be unfavourably described as a front heavy mix, but is in fact a far more accomplished piece of sound engineering that plays to its strengths very well.
    Surveillance Sound


    Commentary with Jennifer Lynch, Mac Miller and Charlie Newmark

    A little odd to hear of a commentary that contains the director and two actors that aren't particularly central to the movie but clearly they have chemistry. The friendship of those involved helps this move along at a nice pace but unfortunately Lynch's constant vulgarity starts to grate as she likens things to pornography and talks of how much she wants to sleep with her leads etc. Rather than coming across as a director keen to give us insights into her vision, she all too often descends into what seems to be an impression of a sailor that, shall I say, has been without shore leave for a decade. There are moments where the production comes to the fore and little titbits are revealed about it that can be genuinely interesting and certainly those with a want to investigate low budget film-making will be able to pick up some tips, but the reliance on enthusiasm for the work itself and how clever it is somewhat overshadows any real facts.

    Surveillance: The Watched are Watching - 480p - 15:11

    A general making of feature that shows us some nice shots of scenes being set up and the director taking the time to explain things in more detail to her actors. Pullman gives us a quick explanation of why he got involved and Ormond also tries to over analyse Lynch as a female figure in cinema, painting her as some kind of beacon for feminist artists who was attacked unfairly for her first film. There is a nice air of enthusiasm but there isn't anything greatly interesting here that'll give new insight into the narrative or the process of production.

    HDNet - A Look at - 1080i - 4:42

    There is little here other than a few clips of the film interspersed with a couple of faces from the cast giving their usual high appraisal of the project. Essentially EPK fare.

    Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending - 480p - 12:11

    A total of three clips; Scene 211 “Latex Love”, Scene 59 “Keith and Tina Get Attacked” and Alternate Ending. These basically consist of the killers applying their latex masks to each other in an extremely amorous and fetishist manner, a prolonged look at the slaying of the couple with the flat tyre and finally an ending that Lynch admits was made purely because her father told her she was a sick individual after seeing her proposed finale. There isn't much that radically changes things other than the ending which I suppose could fall into the bracket of “happy” in horror terms but ultimately lacks the impact of the original one as seen in the final cut.

    Also From Magnolia Home Entertainment Blu-ray - 1080p - 7:51

    Four trailers; Mutant Chronicles, Splinter, Two Lovers and The Life before Her Eyes.

    Surveillance Extras


    Surveillance will likely find its audience and be hailed by those wanting something new to come from the horror/thriller genre as something that was simply underappreciated. It contains enough bold elements to give the illusion of method in its madness and the acting performances may be enough to draw viewers back for a second visit in order to see how the experience changes given what they now know about the twist. Problems arise though for both those who guessed the reveal and those who didn't, as once the unsettling feeling of tension is displaced, all that is left is a story whose turn of events are orchestrated entirely to garner a base emotional reaction rather than stand up to any rational scrutiny. It is far from a bad film, but Lynch can't escape comparisons to her father's work and the use of video cameras with hazy images, coupled with the casting of Bill Pullman, was never likely to push those correlations further away.

    The disc itself is a similarly mixed bag. The image is one that will seem pleasing to many but falls down on several occasions and the type of blocking seen simply isn't excusable for those looking for top quality visuals. The sound almost makes up for this slight, with subtlety and finesse shown throughout, mixing slow burning effects that swell to moments of key tension with distinct dialogue and sharp discrete noises of violence. The extras are a little underwhelming, which is a pity given the inclusion of a commentary track, but the use of two lesser actors from the film and Lynch's vulgarity spoiled it for me as shots went by without interesting insights being imparted.

    I am certain that there is a market for this kind of film, and if released at the right price it could become something of a cult classic for some. If you can stomach sadistic violence and a twisted universe that lacks a certain amount of logic then this might be right up your alley. For those looking for films that show value for money in terms of the amount of times they can be viewed and still appreciated, or discs that are uniformly top drawer material, then I'd suggest you look elsewhere.
    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £21.69

    The Rundown



    Picture Quality


    Sound Quality






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