David Robert Mitchell

7.0 The Myth of the American Sleepover (201))
7.1 It Follows (2014)
7.2 Under the Silver Lake (2018)

David Robert Mitchell (USA, 1974) debuted with The Myth of the American Sleepover (2010), followed by the supernatural horror movie It Follows (2014). A girl runs out of her house, scantily dressed and wearing high-heel shoes, as if she is being chased, then runs back into the house, grabs the keys of the car, and drives away, while her father watches puzzled. She stops at the beach, calls her father to tell him how much she loves him. The following morning her dead body is lying by the beach.
A girl is swimming alone in an aboveground pool and two kids are watching her from behind bushes. Her sister Kelly tells her that their childhood friends Paul and Yara are coming over to watch a movie on television. Jay/Jamie, however, has a date with Hugh. Jay and Hugh sit in the theater and Hugh points at a woman but Jay cannot see her. Hugh freaks out and drags her out of the theater in a hurry. Hugh drives her to a remote place and they have sex in the car. Then he picks up something from the trunk of the car: it's chloroform that he uses to put her to sleep. She wakes up tied to a wheelchair in an abandoned building. Hugh is searching around with a flashlight and starts telling her an odd story: that someone has been following him and now will start following her because he just passed this being to her by having sex with her, and this being can assume the semblance of anyone around her, and this curse will stay with her until she has sex with someone else. He shows her a naked zombie-like woman who is advancing towards them. He then drives her home and dumps her on the sidewalk in front of her shocked sister and friends. They call the police but she admits that the sex was consensual and she doesn't know where this Hugh really lives. The following day she walks into the bathroom and stares into her own crotch, and someone throws a ball against her window, and we see that someone has climed to her window and is spying on her. She attends school and sees outside the window that an old woman dressed in a white gown is advancing slowly towards the school. She runs out terrified, gets in the car and drives to the icecream parlor where her sister Kelly and her friend Paul work. She tells them the story that Hugh told her. Paul volunteers to mount guard to her bedroom that night. That night she cannot fall asleep and chats with Paul about their first kiss when they were barely teenagers. Suddenly someone breaks a window. Paul can't see anyone, but Jay sees a disgusting woman peeing while she's walking towards her. She locks herself in her room with Kelly and Paul. When they open to let Yara in, Jay sees a giant monster behind her. Jay runs out and gets on her bicycle, still half-naked. Kelly, Paul and Yara follow catch up with her in a nearby park. Their older neighbor Greg comes to inquire what happened. Aware that Jay's troubles started with her traumatic date, Greg offers to help her find Hugh. They drive to the place where Hugh lived and find nobody, but Paul finds a picture of Hugh wearing a high-school sweater. They visit the high school and find out that his real name is Jeff. They track him down and Jeff sits outside his house with them and explains to all them what he already told Jay: Jay can free herself of the curse if she has sex with someone else. Greg decides to take Jay, Kelly, Yara, and Paul to his parents' beach house. The following day they are relaxing at the beach when the ghost appears behind Jay and tries to grab her hair. Only Jay can see her but Paul can feel someone striking him. They run into the cabin and lock the door, and Jay grabs a gun and starts shooting at the ghost that only she can see, but the zombie doesn't die. Meanwhile Greg, who had left them to pee, is puzzled by what he sees happening. The invisible enemy makes a hole in the door and, in the body of a boy, tries to sneak in, always changing its bodily form. Jay, now chased by a zombie girl, flees in Greg's car but crashes the car in a cornfield and is hospitalized. She wakes up while her friends are sleeping in the chairs of the hospital room. Greg does not believe in the ghosts but Paul, Kelly and Yara have seen the force in action even if they have not seen the physical bodies that the force uses. Greg has sex with Jay in the hospital bed to release her of the curse. For a few days nothing happens to Greg, while Hay refuses to leave her bedroom. Then one night she sees the ghost breaking into Greg's house. She tries to warn Greg but Greg is asleep. She arrives too late, while the monster (who now looks like Greg's mother) is on top of Greg, having homicidal sex with him. Jay gets in the car and drives to the beach and sleeps on the hood of the car. Hugh/Jeff told her that when one is murdered, the curse returns to the previous person, in this case herself. She wakes up at the sound of music, coming from a boat where three boys are partying. She undresses, walks into the water... but the scene is cut and we don't see what she does next: did she want to have sex with them but had second thoughts? She returns home and Paul, who kept the gun, offers to have sex with her, but she refuses. Then Paul has a better idea. He drives the girls to an abandoned swimming pool (while Jay sees a naked man standing on the roof of her home) and they lay a trap for the force, planning to electrocute it when it materializes. Jay swims until the force appears. When it appears, it outsmarts them: instead of them electrocuting it, it starts throwing electrical stuff in the pool to electrocute Jay. Paul starts shooting at something he doesn't see, and accidentally wounds his sister Yara. Kelly has the right idea: she throws a towel at the invisible being making it visible to Paul who can then shoot it repeatedly. The being falls in the pool but still tries to pull Jay underwater. Paul shoots again and again until the ghost dies for real. Finally liberated, or to make sure that she's truly liberated, Jay has sex with Paul. Later Paul drives past some prostitutes: maybe he has sex with one of them to make sure he passes the curse to someone else. In the last scene Jay and Paul are walking on the sidewalk holding hands and we see that a zombie figure is following them.

Under the Silver Lake (2018) is a metaphysical thriller that is probably too long for what it has to say: that we are living in a labirynth of signs that mean absolutely nothing but our lives consist in finding patterns, associations and, ultimately, meaning in them. The first hour is suspenseful and intriguing but, as the associations keep piling up, the film becomes less and less interesting, more and more arbitrary. Mitchell mixed Umberto Eco's semiotic novels (symbols, maps and codes), Alfred Hitchcock's film The Rear Window (1954), Witold Gombrowicz's novel "Cosmos" (1965), Raymond Chandler's thriller "The Long Goodbye" (1953), and some David Lynch to create a hybrid with the potential to generate intellectual curiosity, but that curiosity is never satisfied and eventually becomes a bit frustrated. By the end, we don't really care if things happen in the mind of the protagonist or for real: the sheer quantity of signs has overdosed us. If the plot becomes childishly improbable and capricious, the visuals of cinematographer Michael Gioulakis remain constantly haunting and majestic, and basically steal the show.

A young man, Sam, stares at two girls chatting in a cafe while another girl, outside, is writing a giant warning against a dog killer on the window of the cafe. He walks home and suddenly a dog drops from a tree. Rent is overdue and when he gets to his apartment he finds a note that he is being evicted. He sits in his balcony and uses binoculars to spy on a sexy topless neighbor who has a parrot who repeats a cryptic sentence. His mom phones him and he pretends that he is at work. Another sexy woman walks to the swimming pool of the complex with her dog and a radio playing loud music. Sam's girlfriend, presumably an actress, shows up dressed in an Austrian costume to share her lunch with him. While they are having sex, the TV set broadcasts the breaking news that a famous billionaire had gone missing, and she starts watching television instead of enjoying the sex. When he's done, he spies again on the sexy neighbor with the dog. Sam, whose apartment is full of comic books, walks into his regular bookshop and buys a graphic novel that talks about the dog killer. He asks the shopowner to put him in touch with the author. Back home, he feeds the sexy neighbor's dog Coca Cola, and chats with her, Sarah. Sarah tells him that she saw him spying on her from the balcony. Sarah offers him drugs and they watch the replay of a TV show, "How To Marry a Millionaire" with Marilyn Monroe, behind a poster of Hitchcock's The Rear Window. They walk outside to watch the fireworks. Left alone, Sam sees a girl peeing on a car and attacks her, even kicking her while she is lying helpless on the pavement, while her friend runs away. Television is still discussing the disappearance of the famous billionaire. Sam reads the graphic novel that talks about the mystery of his neighborhood, Silver Lake. He falls asleep and dreams that Sarah eats her dog and starts barking like a dog. In the morning he looks for Sarah but the apartment has been vacated. The building's manager tells Sam that they moved out. He also reminds Sam that he has only four days left to pay rent before he is evicted. Sam is puzzled why Sarah would move out in the middle of the night. He keeps in his pocket some biscuits for dogs in case he meets her again. At the bar he discusses the dog killer with a friend. Then he breaks into Sarah's apartment and finds a box that she left behind with personal belongings, including a vibrator (whom he smells). He also notices a strange symbol painted on the apartment's wall, two squares next to each other at a 45 degree angle. A woman walks into the house and picks up the box. Sam jumps into his car and follows this woman who is picked up by two other girls. They stop the car and seems to wait for something. Then a traffic signal displays a number and they start driving again. He follows them as they rent a paddleboat in a park. He sees them deliver Sarah's box to a man who quickly disappears. In the evening he follows them to a party where a band called Jesus and the Brides of Dracula is performing and a performance artist is dancing with balloons. He finally confronts one of the girls in the bathroom and shows her a picture of Sarah, but she kicks him in the crotch and leaves him on the floor. Later Sam meets his friend Alan who is also at the same party, and Alan points out the daughter of the billionaire who seems to be having fun. However, when someone whispers to her the breaking news that her father has been found dead, she leaves the party devastated. The author of the graphic novel "Under the Silver Lake" calls him and invites him home. While walking home in the night, Sam feels that he is being followed and runs in panic. He is hit by a skunk while he's hiding among some shrubs and rushes home to take a bath. He is watching television when they start talking about the billionaire: he was found dead with three women who are presumed to be prostitutes, and they also found a dead dog in a purse. He recognizes Sarah's hat. His girlfriend visits again while he is still bathing and reads the graphic novel "Under the Silver Lake". He tells her of some conspiracy theories and she looks at him like he is delusional. Then he leaves because the skunk smell is unbearable. In the evening Sam sees the sexy neighbor of the parrot in the swimming pool. She flirts with him but then... she starts barking at him like a dog. And then she disappears. Obviously a dream. In the morning he follows a sexy black woman in the streets to a place where someone is auditioning young women. The women are staring at a giant writing on the pavement, another warning about the dog killer. He walks home to find that his car is being towed away because he didn't pay the lease. Sam walks to the house of the author, who shows him his collection of masks of famous people. He explains that the symbol in Sarah's apartment is an intimation to keep quiet. The author tells Sam that the world is filled with codes, with subliminal messages. The author opens a closet and shows Sam that he has security cameras all over the house, recording everything that happens. The author is particularly fond of the map of a treasure hunt: that map is guiding his search. Sam walks home and stops by a friend who is playing with a drone. The drone has a camera and they can see on the laptop their neighborhood from the sky. They watch a woman enter her room and cry. He walks to an outdoor movie theater staged in a cemetery and notices, among the public, the two actresses who feature in the movie in the company of a pirate-looking man who looks like the man who took Sarah's box. He finds himself next to Hitchcock's grave. Next, Sam walks to a club where a singer of the Jesus and the Brides of Dracula is performing (she gave him a free ticket). He is given a record of the band and meets Alan again, who tells that there is supposed to be a message in the lyrics of the band's songs. He meets again the balloon girl. She recognizes his picture of Sarah and takes him to a dance club in the basement. She ignores his conspiracy theories about the message. While they are dancing, he feels dizzy and throws up. He sees the girl who took Sarah's box at her apartment, and tries to follow her but he collapses in the cemetery. He wakes up among tombs when his mom phones him. She wants to send him a tape of Frank Borzage's silent movie "7th Heaven" (1927) that features her favorite actress, Janet Gaynor. Sam turns and sees that he has slept next to Janet Gaynor's grave! At home he starts listening to the band's music and writing down the lyrics, trying to discover the hidden message. While he is masturbating in front of Sarah's picture and other sexy pictures, he stumbles on the ad posted in a magazine by one of the girls who featured in the outdoor movie. He calls her. She works as a prostitute to make ends meet. He wants to know about the pirate-looking man but she knows nothing about him. She sees his picture of Sarah and recognizes her: she saw her performance show, sitting still in a glass cube. She tells him of a big stone mansion that is off-limits to everybody. Sam keeps trying to find a message in the lyrics of the songs and eventually comes up with a possible code, based on which he is supposed to find James Dean's head and wait under Newton's statue. That corresponds with a nearby park that has an astronomical observatory. Sure enough an old man appears, wearing a crown like a king. He introduces himself as the "homeless king", blindfolds him and walks him through the park to an underground building. The king releases him ad Sam walks into an empty apartment that looks like a bomb shelter. He follows a tunnel and exits into a supermarket. Walking home, he sees the police in front of the author's home: they tell him that the author committed suicide. Sam waits until cops leave, and then breaks into the house. He opens the secret closet with the recordings of the security cameras and watches them until he sees an intruder: a naked woman with the mask of an owl (the killer?) He leaves taking the author's favorite map. Alan drags him to a chess party in a garden. He meets again the balloon girl, who is playing chess with a friend, and the band. He wants to confront the member who calls himself Jesus, who writes the lyrics of the band. He tortures Jesus in the bathroom, but Jesus tells him that he has no idea what the lyrics mean: the lyrics were written by a man who is only known as the Songwriter. The balloon girl is chatting the the two actresses/prostitutes. They accept to escort him to the home of the Songwriter, a mansion protected by high walls. He jumps the walls and walks to the castle-like mansion. The Songwriter doesn't seem surprsed to see him. He is playing the piano and doesn't even turn. He is a very old man. He tells Sam that he has not the originator of the message, just the messenger who passes on the message through his songs. The old man claims to have written most of the songs of the last two generations, including the songs of Sam's own favorite, Kurt Cobain. In fact, the songwriter owns Cobain's guitar. The old man ridicules young people like Sam who believe in the sincerity of the songs: all those songs were written by him simply because someone paid him to write them. There is no rebellion: young people are rebelling to his music, which is composed only because he is paid to compose it. Sam would like to know who is paying him to write these songs, but the songwriter suddenly pulls out a gun and shoots at him, trying to kill him, still playing the piano with the left hand, until he runs out of bullets. Sam grabs Cobain's guitar and bludgeons the songwriter to death. Back in his apartment in a stormy night, and brandishing the gun he took from the old man, he sees the owl-masked woman enter from a closet. He chases her around the house in vain (dream?). Someone knocks at the door: a police officer tells him that he has to leave the apartment. Sam begs her and she allows him to stay one more day. He sees a god in the street and follows the dog in the dark to a party. He walks in like a ghost whom nobody sees. He meets a girl whom he has seen twice on a billboard. It turns out she is his former girlfriend and she introduces him to her fiance. The billionaire's daughter is at the same party, staring alone at a painting. He approaches her and she tells him that the painting was painted by the actress Janet Gaynor. Sam tells her that his friend Sarah was with her dad and that he's trying to find out what happened to Sarah. Suddenly, they are walking hand in hand in the dark amid warnings about the dog killer. She jumps the fence protecting a reservoir and they swim in the lake. She gives him a bracelet that she found in her dad's office: he recognizes it as Sarah's. Someone starts shooting at them and eventually hits the woman, who starts sinking towards the bottom of the lake. He wakes up in his room with the bracelet around his arm. The bracelet has a series of letters and digits. He scrambles to find out what they mean. Eventually he decides that the letters NPM mean "Nintendo Power Magazine" and that the number points at a specific page. There he finds the map to be used in a videogame. Then he grabs the map beloved by the author (the treasure hunt map) and overlays one on top of the other. He realizes that they show a place that is not on any official map. He runs there: it's a mountain, and there's a hut. Inside he finds an old man and three young women, all dressed in white. One of the women is the woman who took Sarah's box. He still has the gun and points it at the man, demanding an explanation. The man calmly explains that the "bomb shelter" found by Sam under Silver Lake is a tomb for a "king", for a rich man. Rich men think that death is simply a migration to another life and can afford the equivalent of the pyramids built by the Egyptian pharaohs, in which they lock themselves with their beautiful brides. Sarah and her roommate were the wives of the disappeared billionaire. They are not dead. The billionaire's death was faked: the police found some teeth, some skin, and the unnecessary organs. Their "tomb" has been sealed forever under a mountain of concrete, but they can still be contacted via a videotelephone. Sam demands to speak with Sarah and the man gladly makes the video call. Sam speaks with Sarah, who confirms that she willingly accepted this ordeal. Sam is staring at the big Hollywood sign. When the videocall ends, all four collapse mysteriously. The "homeless king" emerges from a manhole and captures Sam. Sam wakes up chained in an underground torture chamber. The king wants to know why he carries dog biscuits in his pocket. When he tells the king that it is just a memory of a girl who disappeared, the king releases him. Sam walks home while his girlfriend's billboard is being painted over, and passes the cafe of the beginning with the warning about the dog killer written on the window. He returns to his apartment where someone has painted two giant squares, the "be quiet" symbol. He watches the silent movie that his mother sent him, featuring Janet Gaynor. He then walks to the apartment of the sexy neighbor with the parrot and they have sex. When he asks her what the parrot is repeating, she tells him that she never found out. Sam walks out to her balcony and can see that the police and the manager have entered his apartment to evict him.
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