Maybe it’s the influence of the new Batman movie, but it seems to be a weekend for watching the detectives. Andrew Garfield initially struggled to make a name for himself outside of his abortive stab at being Spiderman; his let-it-all-hang-out performance as a sex-starved stoner in this comedy/thriller from David Robert Mitchell (It Follows) helped turn things around and led directly to his remarkable 2022 comeback.
In Under The Silver Lake Garfield plays conspiracy-theory loving slacker Sam, who bums around his LA apartment until the mysterious Sarah (Riley Keough) moves in next door. She vanishes, leaving Sam to attempt to track her down while also looking into the case of the mysterious Dog Killer who is murdering local pooches. Sam’s investigation is unsurprisingly shambolic, and digs up various bits of sordid ephemera including strange video games, prostitution rings and underground communities.
Characters with names like the Owl Woman and the Homeless King suggest some kind of David Lynch netherworld, and that’s what Under The Silver Lake aims for; sprawling, obscure, obnoxious and deliberately alienating. But if you’re prepared to try something a little off-menu, there’s a lot to enjoy here, notably the creation of dark LA lore of interest to any fans of the city’s Gothic side.
Like Southland Tales, it’s likely to gain a cult following, and Mitchell’s film deserves a second chance.This UK DVD release has a Q and A with Garfield, but also two featurettes, Beautiful Specter and What Lies Beneath The Silver Lake which give a tantalising glimpse of the impacted layers the film-makers have created here.