Film Review: Under The Silver Lake

David Robert Mitchell’s Under The Silver Lake is enigmatic and compelling. Mitchell surpasses It Follows with  some outstanding filmmaking.

Sam notices a mysterious woman swimming in his apartment complex’s pool. When she goes missing, Sam embarks on a quest to discover what happened to her…

Under The Silver Lake is an engrossing mystery. For the first quarter of the film, writer-director David Robert Mitchell throws quite a bit at the audience. This includes the dog killer, the missing billionaire, and the voyeurism of the protagonist. The combination of real and imagined keeps viewers guessing.

Exposition through news reports works well to give necessary details in a succinct manner. The Comic Man brings these conspiracy elements together, propelling Sam to continue his mission. Sam functions as a detective, tracking down clues to solve the mystery. The obsession of the protagonist deepens as Under The Silver Lake progresses. Viewers will wonder where exactly the film is going. The cast of characters are enigmatic, with unusual tics. Yet none feel out of place in this bizarre world Mitchell has created. The dialogue is great; Sam’s monologues are always interesting, and often amusing. 

There are various elements in the film that hark back to other filmmakers. A Hitchcockian influence pervades the film (with the initial voyeurism reminiscent of Rear Window). Influences from David Lynch and the Coen Brothers are also present. Under The Silver Lake is very much a Hollywood film, in more than just setting. The seediness of the backdrop is palpable. References to both films and the strangeness of the city are abundant. 

The discussion on mystery that takes place is the film in a nutshell. Mitchell focuses on pop culture, questioning its dispensability and its meaning. As the film progresses, the themes become more encompassing. Mitchell gives the audience plenty to ponder. 

Camerawork in the film is great. Mitchell mixes long shots with quick zooms. The rapid, fluid camerawork is offset by more laconic shots. Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis frames some very picturesque shots. Nighttime and day time have distinct feels, capturing the idea that the city comes alive at night. The animated sequence going inside the comic book is a great device. Feels natural, despite a sudden mix of live action into animation. 

The score at times echoes the great Bernard Herrmann. The traditional score is a good contrast with the contemporary diegetic music. Older songs and presence of other archaic aspects give the film a period feel, although this is not explicit. Andrew Garfield delivers a compelling performance as Sam. Often acting alone, Garfield is energetic and always convincing. Grace Van Patten and Jeremy Bobb are good in minor roles.

Engaging, ambitious, and mesmerising, Mitchell’s neo-noir mystery is one of the year’s best pictures.

Under The Silver Lake will be released in DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 26th August 2019.

Film Review: The Neighbour

The Neighbour

The Neighbour is an adequately tense thriller from director Marcus Dunstan. The film shifts in genre, with some aspects more successful than others.

John and Rosie live remotely in Cutter, Mississippi. When a neighbour appears, the pair are suspicious. After an incident, John decides to investigate what is happening in his neighbour’s house…

Director and co-writer Marcus Dustan is delivers a film that is engaging for the most part. The Neighbour has enough mystery in its first third to keep viewers guessing. The film takes obvious cues from Hitchcock’s Rear Window in its set up. Dunstan then subverts pre-conceived perceptions by shifting things around. The film reveals a surprising incident fairly early on in proceedings. This leads to a transformation of genre. The film keeps a suitable level of tension, although how this is generated does change.

In the second half of the film, the narrative takes an interesting turn. Here, the genre shifts from thriller to action. This dissipates much of the tension, although The Neighbour never becomes boring. In its climax, the genre transforms again, leaving a torture-pornesque finale. It is a shame, as the film begins rather well. Dunstan harks back to his The Collector roots doing this, and the result does not feel satisfying.

The film’s setting is good, giving a necessary undercurrent of isolation and untrustworthiness. The stylist opening and closing credits are also a plus. It is a shame, however, that these same effects were employed in the driving sequences. The Neighbour looks best in its interior scenes. Some of the exterior sequences, particularly the brightly-lit night scene at the end, highlight the limitations of shooting on digital.

Performances from the main cast of Josh Stewart, Alex Essoe, and Bill Engvall are believable enough. The Neighbour offers good atmospherics and a decent amount of tension. Although perfectly watchable, it is a shame that the strong first third is not carried through to the end.

The Neighbour is out on DVD on 31st October 2016.

Films on Television

Today sees the launch of the Sony Movie Channel in the UK. It got me thinking about the possibility of every major distributor having their own film channel. It would call into question the dominance of packages like Sky Movies. Currently, there are only a few film channels available without the Sky Movies package, most notably Film4 and TCM. Disney offer a host of channels, although their Disney CineMagic requires a subscription. If other major distributors follow Sony’s lead, it would change how people view films on television. There would still be a need for ‘premier’ channels, as it would be unlikely that a distributor channel would show its own films on television that soon after theatrical release.

Futhermore, the main television channels would also still show films and feature terrestrial television premiers of new movies. Nevertheless, more non-subscription film channels would offer the television viewer more choice. And given the proliferation of streaming and online viewing services, new film channels would surely increase the viewership of films on television.

If every major distributor follows Sony’s example, what can we expect these new channels to show? I pondered what delights may be on offer…

Sony Pictures

Sony Movie Channel launches on 3rd May 2012. The very first film screened will be Woody Allen’s fantastic Manhattan Murder Mystery. The channel will be screening films from the last three decades, so not quite the full back catalogue of Sony Pictures. If they choose to extend this remit, the channel could screen some fantastic films. At their best Sony have distributed classics such as It Happened One Night and Ghostbusters. They are also responsible for Jack and Jill.

20th Century Fox

The television side of the Fox corporation is alive and kicking, particularly in America. If Twentieth Century Fox had their own movie channel, audiences could expect such delights as Star Wars and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Also on offer would be Big Momma’s House and its sequels.

Paramount Pictures

One of the major film companies of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Paramount have a rich back catalogue. A Paramount movie channel could offer some of the finest films ever made, including Double Indemnity and Rear Window. The channel could also screen No Strings Attached.

Universal Pictures

Celebrating their 100th anniversary this week, Universal also have a tremendous array of films to populate a hypothetical movie channel with. Viewers could look forward to tuning in to Bride of Frankenstein and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. 2004’s Wimbledon may not attract quite the same viewing figures.

Warner Bros

Famed for their crime films in the 1930s and 1940s, and their box office-dominating recent franchises, a Warner Bros move channel could feature a cornucopia of classic films. Films as diverse as The Maltese Falcon and The Dark Knight could be aired,  but so could 2011’s New Year’s Eve.

Sony Movie Channel launches on Thursday 3rd May 2012 in the UK, on Sky channel 323.