May 24, 2019
It’s Friday, so we’re taking a break from Netflix Original catchup to check in with our good friend Andrew Campbell and another Fantastic Fest feature. Today’s film is the latest from David Robet Mitchell, the creator behind one of my favorite new horror films, “It Follows”. It has received mixed reviews from the critics, but how did it land with Andrew? He’ll let you know in a little bit, but for a few more new horror films, check out “Hereditary” (Episode #183), “CAM” (Episode #326), and a Jordan Peele twofer with “Get Out” (Episode #448) and “Us” (Episode #449). And I highly recommend “It Follows”, so don’t be surprised if there’s a throwback review for it in the future.
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Take it away, Andrew!
Hello film fans!
Andrew here, back this week to talk about one of my most anticipated films from the 2018 Fantastic Fest. This film was originally slated for a June 2018 release and I even remember seeing a trailer at the Alamo Drafthouse for this film in early 2018. Then A24, easily my favorite production company over the last several years, decided at a late hour to delay this one all the way to December 2018, with rumors that its nearly two-and-half-hour runtime and meandering story required some re-cutting of the film. However, when Fantastic Fest delivered the U.S. premiere in September, they screened the original version of the film that had played to tepid response at Cannes. With a theatrical release just around the corner, I skipped the film at the fest, only for it to again be scuttled just before its December release, this time sitting on the shelf with no announced plans for release. Fast forward to April, and A24 announced the film would be opening two weeks later at a single theater in NY and LA, before being dumped onto VOD that same week. Whew. With a back-story like that, I knew this would either be a cult classic in the making... or some hot garbage.
Today’s film is “Under the Silver Lake”, written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. “Silver Lake” stars Andrew Garfield as Sam, a listless Los Angeles 20-something with no job and no aspirations. One day, a gorgeous young woman named Sarah (Riley Keough) moves into Sam’s apartment complex and he becomes instantly infatuated. After spending one night getting to know her, Sarah and her two roommates mysteriously disappear, their apartment all but cleared out. Sam, already a conspiracy theorist, discovers a clue in the form of a symbol painted on the wall of the empty apartment. When a woman arrives to remove one last box from Sarah’s closet, Sam begins a journey that leads him to elite parties in the Hollywood Hills and sees him introduced to a cast of peculiar characters.
David Robert Mitchell’s previous film, 2014’s “It Follows”, ranks just ahead of 2016’s “Raw” as my favorite horror film of the decade. “It Follows” launched the career of Maika Monroe in a cleverly simple modern horror tale that serves as an allegory for the transmission of STDs, bringing a fantastical horror element into a grounded world. With “Silver Lake”, Mitchell goes all-in. The characters in this film all seem to be living in their own movie with wildly self-centered Hollywood lives. Set against this backdrop, Sam begins to connect the dots of a conspiracy that, at least in his mind, goes far deeper than one missing girl. Unfortunately, the leaps Sam makes and the conclusions that writer Mitchell would have us believe never feel fully realized.
The acting in this film was also a bit of letdown, though it’s hard to say just how much the script may have hung them out to dry. The performances of most of the supporting cast are one-dimensional as we only get a scene or two with each. Riley Keough receives second-billing in the trailer, but her role ends up being fairly trim, and essentially boils down to the manic pixie dream girl stereotype. Andrew Garfield is a performer I was a big fan of ever since seeing him the relatively obscure Red Riding trilogy of British TV movies in 2009. 2010 saw great performances in both “Never Let Me Go” and “The Social Network” and I thought he was a decent Spider-man in two bad superhero flicks. Here, Garfield comes off as whiny and unsympathetic. A dreamy trip like this one demands a strong lead performance to keep the audience engaged and that’s not what we get.
What makes “Under the Silver Lake” fantastic?
OK, if I have to say something nice, there are some great looking shots in this movie. Just like with “It Follows”, Mitchell knows how to capture a mood. The trailer does a good job capturing most of the more memorable scenes, and the IMDb slideshow showcases several great posters along with some nice still images. Maybe just have a gander at those and then throw on “It Follows” instead.
“Under the Silver Lake” (2018) is a colorful and confusing modern noir that clumsily propels itself from scene to scene before failing to reward the patient viewer. Fans of hazy, sprawling cinema such as David Cronenberg’s “Map to the Stars”, Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales”, or David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” might, and I do mean “might”, enjoy this movie.
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
One Movie Punch: 5.4/10
“Under the Silver Lake” is rated R and is available on VOD.
Come back next week when I’ll be reviewing “Rattle the Cage”. I need a palette cleanser after this one, so let’s wind the clock back to 2015 for a comic jailhouse thriller that’s just a ton of fun out of... the United Arab Emirates? This is one of those films that Netflix suggests to you a dozen times that you just skip past because it looks and sounds like straight-to-video junk. But we’re heading to the Middle East to find out why the Netflix algorithm likes to champion this one.
I’ll see you then.