I really wanted to like the new Edgar Wright movie Last Night in Soho, his first venture into the proper horror genre. I loved almost all of his past movies. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End are just so much fun and Baby Driver is a fucking masterpiece. So, I was really looking forward to this new movie, almost certain that I’m going to be blown away. I didn’t look at the trailers or anything and just dove straight in. All I knew was there was a sixties theme and that’s it. And sixties theme there was. Subsequently, I read that it was also inspired by Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, a movie I couldn’t finish, and Polanski’s Repulsion. I am still to check out Repulsion. And I’m just going to mention Argento’s Suspiria following a young American student arriving in Freiburg, Germany.
Last Night in Soho is an incredibly stylish thriller spilling into horror with disjointed storytelling and a familiar plot. A very familiar plot hidden behind confusing plot twists, impactful visuals, and a retro soundtrack. And dancing. Don’t get me wrong, from a technical standpoint, this is a masterpiece. The sets, editing, and that mesmerizing cinematography are all phenomenal. However, there’s so much stuff thrown at us that you simply cannot find a common theme. I didn’t know what was going on in the movie for the most part. And when I finally found out, at least the main part, it turned out to be a story we’ve heard a thousand times. Fast-forwarding through it for the second time, I could see what was going on quite clearly but now it really didn’t matter. The focus was always off and the mood ambiguous.
Meet Eloise Turner, a young girl living in the British countryside dreaming of becoming a fashion designer. She’s in love with the sixties and this really shows in her work. After she’s been accepted into a prestigious fashion school in London, Eloise starts having these visions. Visions of her in the sixties, visiting nightclubs and dancing. And then more ominous things start to happen.
In the first half-hour, the movie changes several genres never deciding what it wants to be. And I think this is its biggest flaw. This unevenness and desire to be this genre-bender where it’s a thriller, period movie, drama, and horror all at the same time. I see how the “film critic” crowd is going to love this highly stylish and artistic approach but for an average movie fan, I think this is going to be too much. Then again, I could be wrong. The same way I was wrong about Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. The themes explored here are quite potent and I really liked some of them. I think you have to be in a certain mindset to fully immerse yourself in this movie.
Still, the characters here are quite one-dimensional. If someone asked you to sum them up you could come up with two-word explanations and you would be right. We have the awkward girl, the bad girl, the good guy, and so forth. Just test out this theory on Michael Ajao’s character John and watch what he does. Granted, Eloise has this whole dream/reality/mental issues thing going on but still. The acting, however, was top-notch, especially from our two leads Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. So, Last Night in Soho is an odd movie that’s still worth watching. It captures the glamour of the sixties and the spirit of the nightclubs quite well and it offers a pretty familiar supernatural story. When you add to these sleek and stylish visuals and a swinging soundtrack, you got yourself quite a movie.
Finally, since a large part of this movie is exploring the sixties nightclub scene and what was happening behind closed doors, I have the perfect follow-up material. The Trial of Christine Keeler is a British miniseries based on a real Profumo Affair that happened in the sixties. Actually, you might say that the character of Sandie is very similar to the one of Keeler masterfully played by Sophie Cookson. Featuring just six episodes, tight storytelling, and excellent acting, this would be a perfect thing to watch after this movie.
Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Cast: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Synnove Karlsen
Fun Facts: Final performances of Diana Rigg and Margaret Nolan, who both died in 2020. The movie is dedicated to Diana’s memory. Both of them starred in various James Bond movies.