Since he first brought his retro horror flick IT FOLLOWS to Cannes in 2015 for critics’ week, David Robert Mitchell has gained a significant amount of respect through his bizarre and creepy style of filmmaking. Surreal and real both at the same time, Mitchell’s movie UNDER THE SILVER LAKE follows the story of an unemployed and unambitious man named Sam (Andrew Garfield), who lives a dull life in L.A. The film never hints on Sam’s credentials; although from the classic movie posters and comic books in his apartment we can see that he possesses a notable amount of knowledge in films and video games. His only desire is to spend each day chain-smoking, jerking off to old Playboy magazines or watching his female neighbours through a pair of binoculars. But one day, during his usual antics, Sam spots a beautiful woman, Sarah, and is instantly infatuated by her. After spending a night with the unemployed, unambitious loser, the classic American blonde suddenly goes missing.
Sam develops an unsettling obsession with Sarah, which drives him to investigate some bizarre conspiracy theories which alienate him from the community. His obsession causes him to question everything about his existence. He wonders whether Sarah is actually dead, and what other mysteries lie within the fascinating city of Los Angeles. From that point forward, Sam dawdles around the city in search for answers, trying to make sense of the world around him by putting together specific clues which he finds in his Playboy magazines, cereal boxes and record players.
The film beautifully displays L.A.’s stunning landscapes, and the soundtrack matches the mysterious aura of the film. Most of the narrative is shown through Sam’s masculine, heterosexual point of view, observing young, attractive, unclothed women through his erotic gaze. Many aspects of the movie are more problematic. There is an interesting sequence where an elderly composer reveals how he has personally composed most pop songs that everyone listens to. This scene ends in a horribly graphic moment of violence where Sam smashes a guitar on the old man and brutally murders him. Another similar sequence shows Sam assaulting some kids on his street for vandalising his car. These eccentric sequences cause the film to seem quite strange at times, and most mysterious events are left unresolved. Moments of unusual events, and the behaviour of the main characters towards them, place the audience in a hazy unfamiliar journey where most of the strange occurrences seem possible.