Tuesday, 28 February 2023

More Favourite Horror Movies: Last Night in Soho

Last Night in Soho

Dir: Edgar Wright. Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomasin McKenzie, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp, Michael Ajao, Rita Tushingham. 2021.

Ellie Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) sees ghosts. Specifically, she sometimes has visions of her mother, dead by suicide. This doesn’t seem troubling to Ellie, in fact, it seems to be reassuring for her. Ellie wants nothing more than to experience whatever remains of Swinging Sixties Soho, a time and place that holds special significance to the women in her family. Accepted at the London College of Fashion, Ellie leaves both Cornwall and her grandmother behind, and travels to Soho where she begins to have visions that take her back to the 1960s and to the promising yet troubling and ultimately tragic life of a young singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy).

Last Night in Soho is a flawed movie, most noticeably in the sometimes illogical behaviour of its characters. I’m not going to argue that this adds to the dreamlike quality of the movie — it doesn’t — but I am going to state that these flaws didn't detract from what Last Night in Soho offered me, which is an experience, and a completely cinematic one at that. 

Director Edgar Wright, assisted by co-writer Kristy Wilson-Cairns and each and every one of his behind the scenes creative departments, has worked to create a decidedly appealing Soho of the 1960’s. Its colours, wardrobe, locales, soundtrack and actors inhabit a thoroughly alluring world. It’s this enticing place filled with the music of Peter and Gordon, Egyptian eyeliner and plastic raincoats that, like its twinned main characters have been, lures us in. It’s only when nightmarish reality starts to bleed into this innocent and promising world with its Argento-like colours that we understand the truth behind the glamour, and it’s here that Soho truly becomes a ghost story. 

After my initial viewing of Last Night in Soho, I left the theatre feeling fully satisfied. I’d had my thrills and my senses had been completely engaged. It was only afterward that I began to really think about the dangers of nostalgia that Soho asks us to ponder, as well as the notion of just what makes a victim, and what constitutes fitting punishment. Lofty take aways from a movie that too many have criticized for its lack of substance.

Sunday, 5 February 2023

My Gay Ass Has a Problem with Knock at the Cabin

There are two kinds of gay guys: one is the kind who doesn’t see an issue with what I’m about to type about (That’s fine. He should just move along.), the other is me.

And there’s another thing; although I’ve looked, it’s something I’ve yet to see mentioned in reviews of this film. My assumption then, rightly or wrongly, is that the reviews I’ve read were written by straight people, because it doesn’t seem to have registered with them. 

Yesterday, my husband and I took in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Knock at the Cabin”. It’s his adaptation of Paul Tremblay’s novel “The Cabin at the End of the World”, which I’ve not read. In the film, a gay couple (oddly always referred to as “same sex”) and their daughter rent a secluded cabin and are visited by four strangers who may or may not be the four horsemen of the apocalypse (sans horses). They tell their hostages that one of them must be killed by their other two family members in order to prevent the end of the world. 

Sure. Let’s just go with that for the sake of enjoying the movie. I mean, “The Rapture” and “Breaking the Waves” both did a pretty great job of selling a Christian “what if” scenario, so why not? Food for thought.

Here’s the thing, though people are chopped, shot and bludgeoned in mostly PG-rated ways, what’s the one horror that Shyamalan can’t bring himself to show onscreen? Answer: Two men kissing. 

This is a film about love, about the romantic bond between two men and their bond with their daughter. These men are tied to chairs, forced to watch murders take place before their eyes, they are asked to make a choice about which one of them will die, but they are not allowed the absolutely human, more than situationally called for act of an actual kiss. Forget about fucking. You know, like real human beings do. 

Our boys are, however, allowed flashbacks. Flashbacks that work hard to earn the couple acceptance by a hetro audience. 

See them struggle with homophonic parents. See a gay bashing. See an actual adoption. All in aid of trying to work up some sympathy from the audience. And how do we do that best? We take away the queer threat. We de-sex queer characters, because that’s where the real horror lies, isn’t it, M. Night? That’s the threat present in a simple kiss. 

While it’s true that one movie can’t (and shouldn’t) be called upon to address all ills, to show only uplifting stories about marginalized people, how long can we continue to represent gay men onscreen via handsome, buff white men of means who are busy assimilating into straight society, here with the added bonus of de-sexualizing them?