Visual White Noise Theater: Whats “Under the Silver Lake” (2018)?

“Under the Silver Lake” is like one of those Russian nesting dolls, you pull off one shell of a doll and there is another smaller doll underneath but this movie isn’t like your typical nesting doll, you don’t come down to one small doll within larger ones, you can keep pulling shells off and seem to never come to the end. This pisses a lot of people off, it doesn’t piss me off and I love movies like this that have me thinking days after I watched it, especially if its a newer film. Directed by David Robert Mitchell, who directed the awesome, multi layered symbolic horror film “It Follows” this was Mitchell’s fray into “Neo Noir”, a genre post 1960’s that lifts the main themes of “Noir” and transplants them into the current time period. More modern examples are most of the films of David Lynch, “Drive”, “Brick”, “Big Lebowski” etc. that mix various genres in with “Noir” genres like comedy, sci fi (think “Blade Runner), the supernatural and occult etc. Mitchell takes the “Neo Noir” genre and turns it on its head snapping its neck in the process.

Put out by A24 who has actually been putting out good newer movies, “Under the Silver Lake” on the surface is your typical “noir” plot. Loser and down on his luck Sam, played by Andrew Garfield, is about to get evicted from his apartment. He seems to have no job and is a creepy voyeur type who spies on his female neighbors, one of which is an old hippie chick who feeds her numerous birds on the balcony topless, he also has sex with an older and aspiring actress who drops by his apartment once in a while, as their having sex on the news they see that Jefferson Sevence, a billionaire stunt man/mogul has disappeared without a trace. However, he falls for a girl in a bikini who was a small white dog as a pet who is his neighbor, which is funny because there is a dog killer loose in the Silver Lake area who is killing pooches. He hooks up with Sarah, played by Lisa Marie’s daughter and Elvis Presley’s grand daughter, Riley Keough. They go in her apartment to watch a Marilyn Monroe movie called “How to Catch a Millionaire” and she has three dolls on her dresser of actresses in the movie, name labels beneath the dolls and beneath the names strange code. Soon other people come into the apartment before he can get it on with her and she tells him he has to leave but he should come back the next day. He does and finds the apartment empty, he breaks in the window and hears somebody coming, a girl dressed like a prostitute comes and gets a shoe box full of Sarah’s stuff with dolls and other pictures in it. He asks his pissed off landlord where she is and the landlord brushes him and tells him he has to pay rent or he is gonna get evicted. So Sam goes to find out what happened to her and where she is at.

That is the surface story, sounds like a start to a neo noir film and I am not giving anymore away but suffice to say from there it gets more crazy and insane. Then you start to wonder whats paranoia/fantasy or reality. This movie reminds me a lot of Lynch’s “Southern California Trilogy” of movies which are “Lost Highway”, “Muholland Drive” and “Inland Empire”. Its a mix of Lynch, Hitchcock and Chandler, even the in between, incidental music is something Bernard Hermann would’ve put in one of Hitchcock’s films which was done by the ultra talented “Disasterpiece” who did a synth soundtrack for Mitchell’s first movie, “It Follows”. Sam is obsessed with retro pop culture, in his apartment he has got posters for noir and old monster movies all over his walls, a VHS tape player, a Nintendo, Nintendo Power magazines, even the magazines he beats off to are old copies of Sears Catalogs, Playboys and Hustlers. As his search for Sarah intensifies so does his paranoia that all of pop culture and what we listen to, beat off to, watch, eat etc. is orchestrated by small group of men who hide in the dark.

Some of the characters in the movie don’t even have names, which I think is done on purpose, the aspiring actress girl whom is a “friend with benefits” type is listed in the credits as “Actress” who is played by Riki Lindhome, then there is the paranoid “Comic Fan” played by character actor Patrick Fischler who has been in two David Lynch projects, the aforementioned “Muholland Drive” and “Twin Peaks the Return” TV series, the Comic Fan puts out a zine drawn in Daniel Clowes fashion about the history and urban legends behind Silver Lake which was where the movie industry started, chief among them being the Dog Killer of the 1920’s who might be inspiring the killer of the modern day and the Owl’s Kiss woman who has sex with prominent men and murders them, all these sequences are done in animated, 2D.

“Comic Fan” also believes all the answers can be found on a map he finds in the back of cereal box, he also has plaster masks of Johnny Depp, Grace Kelly etc. all over his walls when Sam goes to ask him questions about the zine he created and Sarah, he says it all leads back to what is on that cereal box and if he isn’t careful the Owl’s Kiss will kill him. At first Sam thinks he is crazy but then realizes that ever since he was a kid he was trying to find patterns in everything. The Comic Fan gives him a guide on how to spot hobo symbols, one of the symbols, two diamonds joined together, look like the same symbols from the “Twin Peaks” original TV series, in the movie they mean to “remain silent”.

In “Under the Silver Lake” there is a lot of symbols, a lot of patterns and a lot of interpretations of what those symbols mean. It also examines pop culture and paranoia burn out in our technological age. It also skewers modern Hollywood and the media, almost every actress in this movie is a part time prostitute, and I don’t think there is any misogyny in that presentation, its actually a comment on how power hungry producers see females in the industry. Its a critique but the movie goes a lot deeper. There is a multitude of theories about this movie, that Sam as actually a schizoid, kleptomaniac who is imagining most, if not, all the movie in his head, there is scenes in the movie that are picture perfect renditions of the cover of an old 1960’s Playboy he jerks off at, a Marilyn Monoe film and other homages to retro pop culture or that he is actually dead and in limbo in a type of purgatory etc. There is numerous videos on the different theories and symbols in this movie. In fact the film’s cryptography advisor was a computer scientist named Kevin Knight who helped create a computer program to break the Copiale Cipher, so the symbols and numbers in this movie aren’t meaningless.

“Under the Silver Lake” premiered at the 2018 Cannes Festival. A24 were pretty shitty with this movie, they kept pushing it back and back on the release date and barely promoted it. That wasn’t fair to this movie, of course it has developed a cult following but it should be more widely known as a good addition to the “Neo Noir” cannon of movies. High recommendation from me, not a lot of modern movies stroke my sensibilities, especially lame stream movies. So go ahead jump into “Under the Silver Lake”.

So it is streaming on some platforms, if you have prime on Amazon or other subscriptions you should be able to watch it no problem. I say pay these people.

But if you don’t want to support art, you cheap fucking bastards, find a pirate ship if you know what I mean.


Visual White Noise Theater: Your “Nothing But Trouble” (1991)

So taking the usual horror plot of city slickers getting lost in the sticks and being captured and tormented by inbred, mutant, red necks a la “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “The Hills Have Eyes”, “Deliverance etc. Writer/director Dan Aykroyd turns the usual horror plot on its head throwing in a huge dash of cartoonish absurdity, dark humor and incomprehensible insanity. This movie stink bombed theaters back in the day but you know me, I don’t give a shit what audiences thought or think about a piece of white noise, I leave that up to myself. Digging this piece of coal out of the ground I found a diamond and I am most definitely gonna look at this diamond more than once. “Nothing But Trouble”, that title made it easy for “sticks up their asses” critics to make fun of the movie. To me watching this was no trouble at all.

Chevy Chase plays Chris Thorne who decides to drive his neighbor, a lawyer Diane Lightson, played by a hotter than hell Demi Moore to visit one of her clients who is stealing money from her in Atlantic City. Chris’ clients, a Brazilian heir and heiress brother and sister, Fausto and Renalda Squiriniszu played by character actors Taylor Negro and Bertila Damas respectively tag along. On the way to Atlantic City, Fausto and Renalda want to stop off somewhere to have picnic which Chris doesn’t want to do, they hound him into pulling off somewhere with trees, they end up in the rural New Jersey turnpike town of Valkenvania and Chris drives past the speed limit unknowingly and he tries to out run the cop car that has jets on its back but has to give up when another cop, Miss Purdah, played by another character actor, Valri Bromfield, is on the road blocking it with her car and a sharp shooter rifle. They are ultimately taken in by Officer Dennis Valkenheiser played by the awesome John Candy and they are brought before a 106 year old judge, Alvin J.P. Valkenheiser, played by Dan Aykroyd, in disgusting make up, when he finds out Chris has something to do with finances Alvin hates bankers and investors he drops Chris and his crew through a holding cell to be tried the next day. They overhear another group of people who got speeding and they were also caught with drugs, the druggies are sentenced to go through the “Bonestripper” roller coaster where their stripped of their flesh. The group knows they need to get the hell out of there.

“Nothing But Trouble”s art design and sets are jaw dropping, a bizarre collection of junk, scrap metal, manikins, retro toys, retro magazines and other knick knacks give the feel of a junkyard carnival. In fact, I’d say the whole aesthetic of the movie is what gives it its extra punch. It is in no way scary, but it will have you on the edge of your seat and you will get laughs. This won’t have you peeing your pants in fear or make your teeth chatter, this is the type of harmless dark comedy that 1944’s “Arsenic and Old Lace” perfected so well. Its goofy and screwball brought to the early 1990’s with a dash of classic Warner Brother’s Cartoon humor.

Both John Candy and Dan Aykroyd do double duty playing different characters. Not only does John play Dennis, he also plays Dennis’ sister Eldona who wants to marry Chris and the Judge, in exchange for Chris’ life, insists on this. John Candy in drag equals hilarity. Dan not only plays the judge, he also plays his mutant inbred grandson, Bobo whose twin brother is Lil’ Debbull played by John Davieikis, Diane falls into their inept and childish clutches, these two characters wouldn’t be out of place in an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, even the voices. The classic Hip Hop (not a fan but cool nonetheless) group Digital Underground make an appearance, complete with a young Tu Pac. Digital Underground gets pulled over for speeding but let go by the judge because he digs their music but he makes them stay to play the wedding music for Chris and Eldona’s forced wedding. This movie is early 1990’s to the fucking core.

This script came from an idea from Dan’s brother Peter who was pulled over for speeding in a podunk town in New Jersey, Peter felt like he was in a kangaroo court, got fined fifty bucks but was invited for tea by the Justice of the Peace after his trial, he was at the dude’s house for four hours! Not to mention Dan and Pete took their producer buddy Robert Weiss to a screening of “Hellraiser” to take his mind off of a rib injury he just had, they heard the audience laughing at the movie and got the idea that audiences wanted to be scared and laugh at the same time. Boom! “Nothing But Trouble” sprang into existence. The movie was originally titled “Valkenvania” but the studio changed it to a line in the movie “Nothing But Trouble”.  The movie went over five million plus bucks budget wise, but that didn’t help it any, it only grossed 8.4 million at the box office while the budget was 40 million over all, back in the day it croaked really hard.

The usual stick in the muds in the lamestream media savaged the shit out of it and it got Razzies. It didn’t help that Chevy Chase was a raging dick head on set berating the staff and fellow actors but what else is new? Apparently legendary fantasy/sci fi artist was commissioned to do the poster art but I’ve never seen it and I don’t think it was ever used. So should you give this movie a chance? I say HELL YES!!! On this blog I will only review noise both audio and visual I find interesting, makes me think, entertaining etc. I will never waste my time or yours on stuff that completely sucks. This movie is in that weird vein of comedy mined by “Beetlejuice”, “Cabin Boy”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”, “Freaked” etc. back in the day. Go mine the hell out of it yourself.  

To mine it go here: