This second directorial effort by Jennifer Chambers Lynch is her first in fifteen years and one of the best films of this year thus far. Being the daughter of an auteur such as David undoubtedly comes with a ton of baggage, but here she uncorks a B-movie masterpiece. Working with the same morbid sensibility and twisted mindset that made her father famous, Lynch is able to polish a gem that does more than create a freaky atmosphere. She happily uses throwaway shots of dead animals to add texture and employs a cold, grey feel to the film. But here, as is often not the case with David Lynch's work, the story is also a star. Her world is populated with the scum of the Earth: stereotypical white trash, racists, murderers, junkies, and good police gone horribly bad, all used to weave a tale that is brilliant yet confusing, bleak yet life affirming, and sadistic yet sexually charged.
Opening with a brutal scene featuring a serial killer in a neo-Michael Meyers mask hacking a family to death in Middle of Nowhere, USA, it quickly cuts to the local police station where much of the movie takes place. A different crime is being investigated and the podunk police staff is up in a huff because the feds are taking over their investigation. Those feds, Sam and Elizabeth (Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond), are detached and business like which causes a natural clash with the local staff who is so backwards that they refer to Elizabeth as "The Asian."
There are three witnesses to the incident: an eight-year-old girl, a local police officer who is covered in blood, and a strung-out hottie with a drug addiction. Sam uses cameras and microphones to oversee all three interrogations simultaneously and the viewer is stuck siding with him, mainly by default, because he is the only non-moron around. Jack (the cop) and Bobbi (the addict) both provide testimonies that are gross bastardizations of the truth. The viewer knows they are full of it because the real events unfold through flashback simultaneously on the screen. So when Bobbi claims that she was at a job interview, we watch as she rips off a dead drug dealer. Stephanie, the little girl, is, of course, an angel and would never tell a lie. The way that her character is portrayed as flawless is the only major downside to this film.
The stories all lead up to a huge collision, literally, of human waste. Blood is spilled, surprises are revealed and nobody is spared. Whether or not all the pieces really add up is subjective, but when the ride is this much fun who really cares? There is an active, noticeable effort to tie up as many loose ends as possible and that is appreciated. While the killer turns out to be not unlike Heath Ledger's Joker, out to impose chaos and suffering simply for their own nihilistic entertainment, the final kill seems specially placed to be a turn on for some and a source of outrage for others. It is important to remember that this is the woman who brought the world Boxing Helena. And even though the theme of little blonde girls being all knowing angels is not to be taken seriously, the rest of the film is indispensable. It is a rare horror movie that earns its gross out gore. Good luck discarding this one from your mind.
Starring: Bill Pullman, Julia Ormond, Ryan Simpkins, Kent Harper, Pell James, Michael Ironside
Director: Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Distributor: Arch Light Films