David Robert Mitchell is moving on from the horror genre for “Under the Silver Lake,” the director’s first feature since breaking big with “It Follows.” But just because Mitchell’s new film isn’t horror doesn’t mean it won’t mess with your head.
The trailer begins with this shot of Riley Keough’s Sarah swimming in a pool late at night. Mitchell heightens the water’s neon blue color to make it clear she’s the object of our protagonist’s desire.
Sarah (Keough) is the beautiful young woman who moves next door to Sam, an aimless 33-year-old who quickly falls in love with her.
The trailer implies Sarah is a lovely and innocent free spirit, but we all know Riley Keough loves edgy roles. Is Sarah a pixie dream girl or a femme fatale? The film will surely keep us guessing.
Andrew Garfield plays our hero, Sam. The character quickly develops a crush on his neighbor, but that turns out to be more of a curse than a blessing once she vanishes.
Similar to “It Follows,” “Silver Lake” seems to be taking place in the past and the present all at once. The set design and Keough’s style suggests a period setting, but the trailer doesn’t seem bound to one era.
The superimposition of bursting fireworks and Sarah and Sam kissing is a lovely visual representation of sparks flying.
Trouble begins for Sam when Sarah mysteriously vanishes from her apartment the morning after they spend the night together. Mitchell moves away from intimate close-ups after the disappearance, prefering to increase Sam’s isolation through wide shots and filters.
Mitchell starts blocking Garfield behind windows, doors, and more objects after Sarah vanishes. The motif implies what an emotional disconnection Sarah’s disappearance is causing for Sam.
“Under the Silver Lake” is a Los Angeles neo-noir, which means Sam’s quest to find Sarah will take him on a “Chinatown”-like odyssey through various parts of the city.
Sam begins finding clues in number patterns and on music records and becomes obsessed with their meanings. Is he actually sleuthing or is his search just driving him mad? Filters like these blur the line in Sam’s investigation.
A brief shot teases that animation will come into play at some point in the film. This hooded figure lifting up a dog is most likely the mysterious “dog killer” we hear mentioned in the trailer. Perhaps the dog killer’s origin story will be told through animation.
The dog killer is prolific enough to inspire warning signs on the street. Every noir needs a shadowy villain or organization (see the Golden Fang in “Inherent Vice”), and “Silver Lake” looks to have a similar foe with the dog killer.
A shot of five women walking down the street all wearing colorful clothing certainly brings back “It Follows” vibes. The women almost seem surreal, while the suburban setting couldn’t be more ordinary.
The trailer gets increasingly nutty towards the end. Here we get our first look at Balloon Girl, played by rising indie star Grace Van Patten. It looks like Sam meets Balloon Girl at a high society party, but she’s not the kind of woman you want to trust in a noir.
Riki Lindhome makes a brief appearance as a nurse who tries to calm down Sam. The character’s journey is seriously screwing with his mental state.
Another party Sam infiltrates mixes bright colors and menacing doubles to make it clear not everything is as it seems in Sam’s head.
Mitchell is keen on heightening the surrealness of his character’s predicament by sticking him dead center in the most ordinary suburban setting possible. Here we see Balloon Girl luring Sam somewhere (most likely into some trouble).
Mitchell is relying more on color to set the tone in “Under the Silver Lake.” The implosion of vibrant colors in shots like these really heighten Sam’s disorder of reality.
It wouldn’t be a noir if Andrew Garfield didn’t end up pointing a gun in silhouette.
And finally, the trailer ends with a night swim in the Silver Lake Reservoir. By this point, it’s clear this probably is not your average skinny dip.