Under the Silver Lake

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Under the Silver Lake
Under the Silver Lake.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Robert Mitchell
Written byDavid Robert Mitchell
Produced by
CinematographyMichael Gioulakis
Edited byJulio C. Perez IV
Music byDisasterpeace
  • Pastel Productions
  • Michael De Luca Productions
  • Stay Gold Features
  • Vendian Entertainment
  • Salem Street Entertainment
  • Boo Pictures
Distributed byA24
Release dates
  • May 15, 2018 (2018-05-15) (Cannes)
  • April 19, 2019 (2019-04-19) (United States)
Running time
139 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,053,469[2]

Under the Silver Lake is a 2018 American neo-noir black comedy thriller film written, produced and directed by David Robert Mitchell. Set in 2011 Los Angeles, it follows a young man (Andrew Garfield) who sets out on a quest to investigate the sudden disappearance of his neighbor (Riley Keough), only to stumble upon an elusive and dangerous large-scale conspiracy.

The film premiered on May 15, 2018, at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or, before being released nationwide in France on August 8. It was theatrically released in the United States on April 19, 2019, by A24. Under the Silver Lake polarized critics; while its originality, direction, soundtrack, cinematography, and Garfield's performance were praised, some found the screenplay confusing, too cryptic, and lacking the substance and depth the film was aiming for.


Sam is an aimless 33-year-old in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, interested in conspiracy theories and hidden messages in popular culture, and uninterested in paying his overdue rent. The public is warned to "Beware the Dog Killer" who is murdering pets. Sam meets his new neighbor, Sarah, who despite having caught him spying on her, invites him over. The two get high and watch How to Marry a Millionaire, but when her roommates interrupt as they begin to kiss, Sarah suggests Sam leave and they hang out the next day.

In the morning, Sam discovers Sarah and her roommates have moved out overnight, and becomes obsessed with learning what happened. Noticing a strange symbol painted on the apartment's wall, Sam trails a woman from the apartment to a series of elite Hollywood parties, encountering the pop band "Jesus and the Brides of Dracula" and a performance artist working for a prostitution ring of struggling actresses. All seem connected, but Sam struggles to find any meaningful pattern.

At his apartment, Sam sees a news report detailing the discovery of billionaire Jefferson Sevence, burned to death in a car with three women. Sam recognizes Sarah's hat at the scene, and a small dog similar to Sarah's found dead.

Sam contacts the author of Under the Silver Lake, an underground comic about neighborhood urban legends. He tells Sam that Sarah's disappearance, the Dog Killer, the Owl's Kiss - a naked woman in an owl mask who seduces and kills people in their sleep - and messages in pop culture are part of the same conspiracy, and that he has installed security cameras throughout his house. Later, the police find the author dead in an apparent suicide. Sam enters the house and reviews the security footage, discovering the author was killed by a woman dressed as the Owl's Kiss.

Following clues hidden in Jesus and the Brides of Dracula songs, Sam meets the "Homeless King", who brings him to a bunker underneath Griffith Park leading into a supermarket. With the help of the performance artist and her friends, Sam meets "the Songwriter", a fabulously wealthy old man who claims to have written most of history's popular songs. When the Songwriter tries to shoot him, Sam bludgeons him to death with a guitar that purportedly belonged to Sam's musical idol, Kurt Cobain.

At a party in the Hollywood Hills, Sam meets Jefferson Sevence's daughter Millicent, also running into his now-famous ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Millicent convinces Sam to go swimming in the Silver Lake Reservoir. She gives him a bracelet – identical to Sarah's – that belonged to her father, and is shot dead by unseen assailants and sinks to the bottom of the lake, mirroring a pose from Sam's favorite issue of Playboy.

Sam manages to escape, and combines the bracelet, the author's cereal box prize, and a Legend of Zelda map from the first issue of Nintendo Power to reveal a location absent from web mapping where he finds a man and three women in a small hut. As Sam holds them at gunpoint, the man reveals the truth: throughout history, wealthy men such as himself chose to lock themselves in underground bunkers similar to the one Sam discovered, much like Egyptian Pharaohs, in order for their souls to "ascend" accompanied by three wives. Sarah and her roommates were Sevence's wives, and their deaths were faked. Their bunker has been sealed, but they can still be contacted via videotelephony. Sam speaks with Sarah, who confirms that she entered the bunker willingly. At peace with her fate, she and Sam share an emotional farewell. Sam drinks the tea that the wealthy man offered to him.

Sam, the wealthy man and his devotees begin to pass out as the Homeless King arrives. On awakening, Sam finds he is chained in an underground space. The Homeless King searched Sam and found dog biscuits, which makes Homeless King angry as a cult is said to be hating dogs. When Sam tells him that he did not actually have a dog and kept biscuits only in memory of his painful breakup and in the knowledge that he would never see his girlfriend's dog again, the Homeless King lets him go.

Returning home, Sam spends the night with a neighbor whose parrot repeats incomprehensible words. From the balcony, Sam watches as his landlord and a police officer enter his apartment to evict him. They notice one of his walls has been painted with the strange symbol seen earlier, which Sam now knows to be a message from the cult to "stay quiet".



Casting and preproduction[edit]

In May 2016, David Robert Mitchell was announced to be writing and directing the film with Andrew Garfield and Dakota Johnson starring. Michael De Luca, Adele Romanski, Jake Weiner, and Chris Bender were also announced as producers.[4][5] In October 2016, Riley Keough replaced Johnson and Topher Grace also joined the cast of the film.[6][7][8] In November 2016, Zosia Mamet, Laura-Leigh, Jimmi Simpson, Patrick Fischler, Luke Baines, Callie Hernandez, Riki Lindhome and Don McManus joined the cast.[9] Composer Disasterpeace, who provided the original score for Mitchell's previous film It Follows, returned to write the music.[10]


Principal photography began on October 31, 2016.[11]


In May 2016, A24 acquired U.S distribution rights to the film.[12][13][14] The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 2018. The first country it was released in nationwide was France on August 8, followed by Belgium on August 15.[15]

The film was originally scheduled to be released in the United States on June 22, 2018, but on June 4 was pushed back to December 7, 2018.[16][17] It was then pushed back again to April 19, 2019.[18]


On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 59% based on 153 reviews, with an average rating of 6.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Under the Silver Lake hits its stride slightly more often than it stumbles, but it's hard not to admire—or be drawn in by—writer-director David Robert Mitchell's ambition."[19] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 60 out of 100, based on 31 critics, and an average user score of 6.7/10, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[20]

Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out gave the film a perfect five rating, calling it "Hypnotic, spiraling and deliriously high" and stating "the ambition of Under the Silver Lake is worth cherishing. It will either evaporate into nothingness or cohere into something you'll want to hug for being so wonderfully weird."[21] Eric Kohn of IndieWire gave a positive review, calling it "a bizarre and outrageous drama grounded in the consistency of Garfield's astonishment at every turn... It's fascinating to watch Mitchell grasp for a bigger picture with the wild ambition of his scruffy protagonist."[22]

Owen Gleiberman of Variety gave a positive review, calling it "a down-the-rabbit-hole movie, at once gripping and baffling, fueled by erotic passion and dread but also by the code-fixated opacity of conspiracy theory. The movie is impeccably shot and staged, with an insanely lush soundtrack that's like Bernard Herrmann-meets-Angelo-Badalamenti-on-opioids."[23] A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a B rating, stating "Mitchell is taking a big swing with his third feature, trying something not just new but also more unconventional, ambitious, and even potentially off-putting."[24]

Emily Yoshida of Vulture stated about the film's message: "I kept coming back to the women in this extremely boy-driven movie—Mitchell suspects that they're all on one big conveyor belt to be chewed up and spit out by Hollywood, or if they're lucky, locked away in the dungeons of the rich and powerful. It's a rather pedestrian imagining for an otherwise admirably cuckoo film—you keep hoping for Mitchell to land on something weirder, more radical."[25] Despite praising Garfield's performance and the film's originality, Bilge Ebiri of The Village Voice gave a negative review, stating: "If you're going to make a postmodern neo-noir sex-conspiracy... set in Los Angeles, it helps to have some personality, or at least a sense of style... Mitchell has interesting ideas, and his actors seem to be having fun, but that's not enough when the film itself lacks atmosphere, or tension, or emotional engagement."[26]

In 2018 The film had positive reactions at the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival in Switzerland where it was awarded with the Denis-De-Rougemont Youth Award.[27] At Sitges Film Festival Under the Silver Lake was awarded with the Special Mention of the Jose Luis Guarner Critics' Award.[28]

Cult following[edit]

While not initially a box-office success with audiences,[29] Under the Silver Lake has garnered a cult following who are convinced that there are hidden meta-clues, codes and ciphers sprinkled throughout the film waiting to be discovered.[30] These include references to the mystery surrounding the identity of the dog killer, various different cyphers or codes, geocoding systems, and even analysis of fireworks in the film, connecting the sound pattern they emit to Morse code.[30] In certain scenes in the film there is graffiti that can be seen in the toilets and on a wall and which are coded with the Copiale cipher. The film's cryptography consultant was computer scientist Kevin Knight, who in 2011 co-created a program to translate the Copiale cipher.[31]


  1. ^ https://www.vulture.com/2019/04/david-robert-mitchell-on-under-the-silver-lake.html. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "Under The Silver Lake (2018) - Financial Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  3. ^ Under the Silver Lake (2018) - IMDb, retrieved June 13, 2020
  4. ^ Hipes, Patrick (May 4, 2016). "Andrew Garfield To Star In 'Under The Silver Lake' As 'It Follows' Follow-Up For David Robert Mitchell – Cannes". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  5. ^ Jafaar, Ali (May 12, 2016). "Dakota Johnson Joins Andrew Garfield In 'Under The Silver Lake' – Cannes". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  6. ^ Busch, Anita (October 27, 2016). "Topher Grace Joins Cast Of 'Under The Silver Lake'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  7. ^ Lee, Ashley (October 31, 2016). "Riley Keough Joins Andrew Garfield in A24's 'Under the Silver Lake'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  8. ^ Kroll, Justin (October 31, 2016). "Riley Keough to Star Opposite Andrew Garfield in A24's 'Under the Silver Lake' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  9. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (November 4, 2016). "'Under The Silver Lake' Adds Zosia Mamet, Jimmi Simpson, Patrick Fischler & More To Round Out Cast". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  10. ^ Gordon, Lewis (July 27, 2016). "It Follows composer Disasterpeace on his intimate soundtrack for Hyper Light Drifter". Fact. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  11. ^ Mitchell, David Robert [@DRobMitchell] (October 31, 2016). "Finished Day 1 of UTSL. Happy Halloween!!" (Tweet). Retrieved November 2, 2016 – via Twitter.
  12. ^ Doty, Meriah (May 12, 2016). "Andrew Garfield's 'Under the Silver Lake' Picked Up by A24". TheWrap. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  13. ^ "The 2018 Official Selection". Cannes Film Festival. April 12, 2018. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  14. ^ Debruge, Peter; Keslassy, Elsa (April 12, 2018). "Cannes Lineup Includes New Films From Spike Lee, Jean-Luc Godard". Variety. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  15. ^ "Under the Silver Lake". AlloCiné. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  16. ^ Sharf, Zack (March 1, 2018). "'Under the Silver Lake' First Details: 'It Follows' Director Returns This Summer With Andrew Garfield and Neo-Noir Crime". IndieWire. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  17. ^ Squires, John (June 1, 2018). "'It Follows' Director's 'Under the Silver Lake' Gets Bumped Back Six Months". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
  18. ^ Kohn, Eric (November 1, 2018). "A24 Moves Andrew Garfield Noir 'Under the Silver Lake' to 2019, As It Searches For a Fresh Start — Exclusive". IndieWire. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  19. ^ "Under the Silver Lake (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  20. ^ "Under the Silver Lake Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  21. ^ "Under the Silver Lake". Time Out. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  22. ^ "'Under the Silver Lake' Review: Andrew Garfield Soars in Baffling and Inventive L.A. Noir About White Male Privilege". Indiewire. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  23. ^ Gleiberman, Owen. "Cannes Film Review: 'Under the Silver Lake'". Variety. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  24. ^ Dowd, A.A. "Lars von Trier doesn't need a press conference to shock the hell out of the Cannes Film Festival". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  25. ^ Yoshida, Emily. "Under the Silver Lake Is Loopy, Paranoid, and Extremely of Its Time". Vulture. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  26. ^ Ebiri, Bilge (May 17, 2018). "Sex, Obsession, and Class in "Under the Silver Lake" and "Burning"". The Village Voice. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  27. ^ "Gaspar Noé scoops the H.R. Giger "Narcisse" Award at NIFFF". Cineuropa - the best of european cinema. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
  28. ^ Mayorga, Emilio (October 15, 2018). "Gaspar Noé's 'Climax' Takes Top Honors at Sitges". Variety. Retrieved July 29, 2020.
  29. ^ "Under the Silver Lake". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  30. ^ a b Nordine, Michael (April 20, 2019). "'Under the Silver Lake' Is Turning Cinephiles Into Self-Styled Sleuths". IndieWire. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  31. ^ Knight, Kevin; Megyesi, Beáta; Schaefer, Christiane (June 2011). "The Copiale Cipher". Proceedings of the 4th Workshop on Building and Using Comparable Corpora: Comparable Corpora and the Web. Portland, Oregon: Association for Computational Linguistics: 2–9.

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