“Lost, not gone. There’s a difference. If something’s lost, it can be found.”
The first feature from PlayStation Productions was the obvious choice and yet also perhaps the most misguided — Naughty Dog’s Uncharted videogame franchise was designed as a cinematic experience, drawing inspiration from the likes of Indiana Jones, but this also means there is little more for a live action production to offer. Practical effects might have provided more grounded, visceral action; instead the action is so obviously green-screened — with videogamey CGI (particularly in aerial sequences) and conspicuous cutting around stunt performers — that the non-interactive experience offers no discernible benefit. Time has also diminished the film’s relevance, as Drake’s videogame journey concluded six years ago. In fact, Uncharted was stuck in pre-production for so long that Mark Wahlberg aged out of consideration for Nathan Drake and into the role of his mentor. Casting a further shadow is how perfect Nathan Fillion would have been for the role of Drake (as demonstrated in a wonderful little fan film — over the intervening four years it became a running joke that I would bring it up as the “real” Uncharted film). Tom Holland provides the requisite charm but not quite enough swagger, and his young Drake feels ill-formed as a character, whilst the rest of the cast is a rogue’s gallery of predictable and shallow caricatures. The story of hunting for the lost gold of Magellan is serviceable with a few moments of intrigue, like Drake learning to test his companion’s trustworthiness, but there is no soul to this adventure. Perhaps it is only lost; I fear it is gone.
“This is London. Someone has died in every room in every building and on every street corner in the city.”
Edgar Wright’s London-based ghost story lavishly conjures Soho in the 1960s but serves as a deliberately stark warning against romanticising bygone eras, exposing coercive mistreatment of women beneath the glossy facade drenched in neon light. We see the entire film through the perspective of Eloise, a modern-day fashion student who experiences visions of the past through mirrors. These reflections provide the film’s best visual flourishes, achieved predominantly through practical sleight of hand and clever choreography (particularly a stunning dance sequence in an exquisite recreation of Café de Paris with repeated Texas Switches, a favourite of Wright). Eloise’s attempt to reinvent herself at university mirrors her visions of Sandie’s grasp at stardom in the 60s . This is communicated through sound design and colour as Eloise crosses to experience Sandie’s world, the coldly desaturated indifference of London suddenly giving way to the vibrant 1960s, with front audio bursting into Dolby Atmos surround. Anya Taylor-Joy is mesmerising, her singing voice adding to her talents. There is also something about former Doctor Who stars twisting their charm into something darker, Matt Smith’s manipulative Jack reminiscent of David Tennant’s Purple Man in Jessica Jones. The horror elements work more through atmosphere than jump scares (though there are some), coupled with Eloise’s concerns about her own mental state. Unfortunately, although the third act reveals are largley satisfying, Last Night in Soho becomes less than it could be when confined to the present day and more conventional horror visuals.
Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film.
A surprisingly enjoyable (rather than scary) experience, It is filled with a series of beautifully shot and creatively weird scenes, having more in common with Stranger Things‘ blend of nostalgia and the supernatural than most contemporary horror. Jump scares are few and far between, in favour of steadily building atmosphere. Where modern horror tends to focus on individual isolation (a reflection of current anxieties), It is told from the perspective of the Losers Club, a group of unpopular adolescent outsiders. Disquiet arises through the group’s collective isolation from the community and particularly the adults in their lives. Like much of Stephen King’s work, It explores the loss of innocence and the murky underbelly of small town American communities. The film is slightly too long for its content (a cinematic streamlining of the book’s first half) and splashing through identical sewers becomes repetitive. Despite the recently released sequel, this first chapter feels complete if not always cohesive — perhaps due to its extended gestation period under multiple directors — and its most striking imagery will certainly linger in the mind.