Edgar Wright’s Horror/Thriller ‘Last Night in Soho’ Haunts the 60s

Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer

Plot: An aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something darker.

Review: Edgar Wright is a director who puts together music and motion like few others can. While his work in films like Shaun of the Dead and Baby Driver are both great examples of this, he takes it all one step further with his ode to 1960’s fashion, music and technicolored films in Last Night in Soho. But there’s something about this one that just didn’t nail it for me the way his other films did, and even while I’m writing this review I’m still not one hundred per cent sure what it is.

I don’t want, yer life! Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

Telling the story of Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie of Jojo Rabbit), a young woman who loves the fashion and music of the 60s. She decides to follow in her late mum’s footsteps (since this is a British film I decided to spell “mom” the way they would) and leaves her home in the quiet countryside of Cornwall where she lives with her caring grandmother to study fashion in a prestigious school in London. The creep factor of the story begins almost immediately as Elle has to deal with a sleazy taxi driver who won’t stop commenting on her features to a roommate who makes fun of her due to her countryside upbringing.

Deciding she’s had enough Ellie rents a flat from a strict but seemingly kind landlady named Ms Collins (Diana Rigg in her final film role) and immediately she starts to dream of being a beautiful blonde young woman named Sandy who lived in 1966 London and is an aspiring singer and dancer. Soon the bounds of fantasy/dreams turn into nightmarish reality as Ellie learns that Sandy’s life wasn’t as fabulous as she first thought and with that we have the premise of what’s meant to be a ghost story wrapped up in a mystery.

I’m blue da ba dee da ba die how indeed I will die da ba dee da ba die da ba dee da ba die

The cinematography, production design, costumes and music all blend together perfectly to produce a film that looks exactly like what you would expect from the mind of Edgar Wright. I love old horror movies and I couldn’t stop thinking of classics like Peeping Tom and Suspiria while I watched Ellie’s life fall apart as she loses touch with reality. For fans of the swinging 60s songs like “Downtown” and “Got My Mind Set on You” are utilised with eerie perfection here and I love it when directors take music and lyrics that were meant to be upbeat and catchy and blend them into this genre in a way that haunts you.

Thomasin McKenzie is perfectly cast as the somewhat naïve and innocent Ellie. The timbre of her voice always seems to have this tremble to it that makes you fear for her in the most ordinary of circumstances. And mirrored against the always confident and capable Anna Taylor-Joy (who seemed born to play roles set in this particular era), there’s almost an Alice Through the Looking Glass effect that takes place here. The film itself seems to be Wright splashing cold water in the face of nostalgia as he seems to be pointing out the fact no timeline was as pure or innocent as older folks make it out to be. Toxic behaviour against women is nothing new sadly and the effects of that trauma haunt its victims no matter how much time has passed.

When you’ve been out partying until 5 and someone puts on the light at 6

Speaking of haunting, the visuals for the ghosts were really well done with each of them having a faceless appearance that is genuinely creepy. Camera effects are smartly used to make every dream sequence feel a bit off-kilter, especially with all the mirrors that appear in the scenes and the use of bright reds and blues with just the right amount of shadow thrown in made for moments that would fit perfectly into horror movies of that era as well.

While the performances by everyone is adequate where things begin to fall apart might be in the characterisation of the villain. Doctor Who alum Matt Smith plays Jack, the man Sandy falls for who turns out not to have her best interests at heart. He fits the role but the character is one dimensional and almost feels like an afterthought. I would’ve loved to see him have a bigger role to play and I think making him one of the premier “stars” of Ellie’s nightmares would’ve gone a long way in upping the horror factor. Add to that the whole haunting aspect wasn’t that scary and even calling this a horror movie feels a bit off, I think of it more like a thriller with some supernatural twist and turns thrown in.

They have all the time in the world. Get it? Time? Time Lord? You get it

Overall I found the visuals and score to be the strongest and most entertaining aspects of Last Night in Soho. The actual story itself is a bit on the weak side and even the solid performances by the cast doesn’t do much to make this tale as memorable as Shaun of the Dead was. It’s not bad, but it’s far from the best we’ve seen from a director as talented as Edgar Wright.

Sommer’s Score: 6.5 out of 10

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2755F829-2EEC-4A68-B6F7-F963F48C9D92 Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.

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