Original Title: Under the Silver Lake
Year of Release: 2018
Genres: Mystery; Thriller; Dark Comedy; Drama
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Writer: David Robert Mitchell
Main Cast: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Jimmi Simpson, Riki Lindhome, Zosia Mamet, Callie Hernandez, Patrick Fischler, Don McManus
After his 2014 horror cult hit It Follows, David Robert Mitchell is back with Under the Silver Lake, a neo-noir mystery that mixes the meandering style of Thomas Pynchon with the thrills of an Hitchcock film and the surreal humor of David Lynch. If those things don’t make you want to watch this, I don’t know what will.
Andrew Garfield stars as Sam, a jobless young man who tries to find out why his new neighbour Sarah (the charming and gorgeous Riley Keough) has mysteriously disappeared. In his aimless journey he meets a colourful cast of memorable characters, discovers conspiracies and ancient secrets, all the while an urban legend all too real and a serial dog killer are on the loose.
Writer-director Mitchell delivers an ambitious film whose enjoyment is going to be strictly subjective. Its main story is simple, yet the execution is everything but straightforward. Similarly to PT Anderson’s Inherent Vice, the main mystery is used to throw the protagonist into a series of seemingly dissociated episodes, deconstructing our modern culture and the film industry. One of the main analyses is that of pop culture: set in 2011, many elements of the sets and costumes are reminiscent of older, nostalgic years, from NES and Super Mario Bros to 1970s Playboy magazines and black-and-white classic cinema. Mitchell looks back at the past with warmth and earnestness, something that feels more current than actual modern things, while in reality even our nostalgia was fabricated by “the man” with the sole goal of gaining a profit. In one of the many memorable scenes of the film, Sam’s love for the past is shattered once he finds out this truth. There are also many conspiracy theories present in the film, criticizing our culture’s obsessions of finding mysteries and schemes in the smallest of things.
The visuals and production design of the film are outstanding, with vibrant colours and diverse camera movements that make each shot and scene feel unique and different. Everything, from the costumes to the sets, looks like a coherent mishmash of different eras, further tying into the deconstruction of pop culture. The soundtrack by Disasterpeace is also nothing short of wonderful, mixing noir melodies that would fit like a glove in a Bogart picture with video game cues and electronic sounds (the original songs sung by Jesus and the Brides of Dracula are also delightful to hear). The huge cast also does a great job, with Garfield delivering one of his best performances as a likable everyday man who has to grow up and accept reality.
Overall, Under the Silver Lake is one of the most unusual films of 2018, and one that I truly loved watching. Its runtime is a tad too long for its own good, and its wandering story and weird elements will put off most mainstream audiences, but I found this to be a thematically-rich and layered film that I can’t wait to watch again.
Visual Effects: 9
Violence & Gore: 9
Sex & Nudity: 7.5
Drugs & Profanity: 6.5
Intensity & Horror: 6