A lot of you probably didn't see Under The Silver Lake, the 2019 movie overshadowed by ... well, pretty much every other movie that came out in 2019. Imagine if David Lynch wrote a hard-boiled detective story set in an Urban Outfitters catalog, and that's pretty much this movie in a faux-vintage nutshell.
Under The Silver Lake is either staggeringly brilliant, mindbogglingly terrible, or perhaps both simultaneously. The story focuses on Sam (played by Andrew Garfield), a scraggly hipster who becomes obsessed with the disappearance of his cute neighbor, leading him down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, murder, and freakish Hollywood parties. Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell (who made the demonic STD flick It Follows), the film received a "mixed reception" at Cannes, leading to rumors that Mitchell and studio A24 were at odds over its almost-two-and-a-half-hour running time.
Whatever happened behind the scenes, the release didn't go so great. After the opening was delayed, it was available on only a few screens before popping up on digital platforms a mere three days later. Most reviews weren't flattering, and its total domestic box office was only a little over $40,000 -- a good amount of money to make if you're the manager of a Taco Bell, but not if you're a motion picture starring America's third-favorite Spider-Man.
But regardless of how you feel about the movie itself, you might be interested in the beguiling secrets it houses. Unless we learn that the Overlook Hotel's linens contain Kubrick's confession to the Kennedy assassination, we think this might just be the craziest, most elaborate Easter egg in movie history.
The film is very much concerned with coded messages hidden throughout pop culture, be it Vanna White's body language on Wheel Of Fortune or a secret map housed in an old issue of Nintendo Power. Because Under The Silver Lake is pretty much a masterclass on self-indulgence, there's also an elaborate series of codes threaded throughout the movie itself. Even though it was mostly overlooked by the general public, the film's dedicated Reddit community noticed that a cable news ticker briefly mentions "COPIALE GRAFFITI."
This is a reference to the Copiale Cipher, a 250-year-old code that wasn't deciphered until 2011. Sure enough, later in the movie, when Sam is barfing in a bathroom stall, the walls feature graffiti made up of mysterious characters that are part of the Copiale code.
The graffiti translates to "COFFEE MENU," which suggests examining the first scene in the movie, which takes place in a coffee shop. Instead of leading us to, say, a listing for an overpriced blueberry muffin, a closer look reveals that the pattern on the bottom of the menu is Morse Code, best-known for communicating distress calls at sea and dick jokes at Boy Scout meetings.
The Morse Code translates to "XJVO OJRY XERSW" -- not because the director was having a stroke, but because it's yet another code. We see the cipher for it scrawled on the wall of a conspiracy nut's house later in the movie.
It translates as "WHAT THRE WORDS," which doesn't make sense. Except that E should actually be EE, which you would know if you obsessively focused on the bottom corner of this billboard like a goddamn maniac:
So it really translates to "WHAT THREE WORDS." What does that mean? Well, "What3Words" is "a geocoding system for the communication of locations with a resolution of three metres" that encodes geographic coordinates into three dictionary words. So this website allows people to search for real-world locations using a designation that consists of three seemingly random words. Further underscoring that we're on the right track, the company logo is similar to the hobo code seen in the movie.
So presumably, solving this puzzle means uncovering the three words that will lead to a specific site. Where in the movie do we get those words? When Sam is hanging out with his neighbor, we see that she has three dolls, representing the three stars of the classic movie they're watching, How To Marry A Millionaire. Under each is a weird set of symbols that happen to be from the Zodiac Killer's cryptogram.
If you're not fluent in Zodiac and don't want to bother Ted Cruz for the answer, we'll fill you in. The three words are "TOMBSTONE," "SHERIFF," and "ENTRIES" -- all words recognized by What3Words. Now here's where things get tricky ... or trickier. For one, there's no clear order for the words. They could be arranged in either the order of the dolls or the order of the actresses on the TV. But one sequence would put us in the middle of Australia, while the other pinpoints a remote location in California, which seems more likely, seeing as that's where the movie is set.
But, but, these three words may not be the right ones at all. Because there may still be another layer of subterfuge going on here. These words could be (sigh) another code to decipher, references to things we see in the movie which house the actual words we need. For instance, "TOMBSTONE" could be a substitute for "WELLS," which is etched into a tombstone prominently displayed in one scene
The next word might actually be "BARNS" -- the name of the sheriff who shows up to evict Sam.
As for "ENTRIES," no one seems to be totally sure what that could refer to. One Redditor announced plans for a trip to the TOMBSTONE, SHERIFF, ENTRIES location, but ominously hasn't been heard from since. Even more distressing, it now seems as though the Pizzagate CHUDs have glommed onto this conspiracy theory, which for all we know leads to a buried cache of promotional T-shirts.
Or perhaps it's simply an endless series of clues designed to underscore the movie's criticism of obsessively searching for hidden significance in pop culture. Meaning this might just be a colossal waste of time. But until Cats fans find Illuminati symbols hidden in Rum Tum Tugger's digital fur, let's keep working on it.
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