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
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
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,
He falls asleep and dreams that Sarah eats her dog and starts barking like
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
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.