Like so many movies, Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic in more ways than one. Originally intended for a fall 2020 release, the British psychological horror lingered on the shelves until this past November. And then Wright’s ambitious project underperformed at the box office though to what extent is hard to tell. Despite theatres opening across the globe, rising infections likely kept some viewers away. Another factor may have been just how much of a departure Last Night In Soho was from Wright’s previous work. Maybe a second life awaits the unique thriller on streaming services. By and large, critics were impressed with what they saw.
Aspiring fashion designer Eloise “Ellie” Turner leaves her rural England home for the glamour and lights of the Soho district of London. As long as she could remember, Ellie has obsessed over the music and styles of 1960’s London. When she struggles to fit in with her flatmates, Ellie rents a room from kindly old woman. On her first night sleeping, Ellie finds herself transported to 60’s London where she walks in the shoes of a beautiful blonde woman, Sandi, looking for stardom. With each passing night, Ellie increasingly believes she’s not dreaming. And Ellie increasingly fears that Soho’s seedy underbelly will consume Sandie … and herself.
Last Night in Soho Loses Momentum After Visually Stunning Trip To 60s London
Though its story and themes depart from Edgar Wright’s previous works, Last Night in Soho still bares many of the director’s trademarks. Not surprisingly, Wright has stacked Soho’s soundtrack with an eclectic selection of 60’s London rock. You can also expect to find Wright’s signature visual style. In fact, Last Night in Soho may be one of the most visually stunning horror movies since Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak. Ellie’s first journey into 60’s London fully immerses the audience – Wright’s attention to detail amazes in a scene that demands a big screen viewing. And Wright’s use of mirrors and reflection to double Ellie’s experience as Sandie shows the innovation for which the director is not.
…Wright’s attention to detail amazes in a scene that demands a big screen viewing.
What’s missing from Last Night in Soho is the heart and soul found in Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. For all its visual dazzle and early immersive vibe, Last Night in Soho feels as cold as some of Eloise’s visions. Occasionally, Wright also allows the pace to drag and too often on the kind of exposition he skewered earlier in his career. There’s a few scares and some haunting imagery, but it all feels a little safe for safe for the director. And a last minute character reveal inflates what’s little more than perfunctory role from the movie’s middle act. It adds a surprise, but doesn’t feel earned.
Edgar Wright Emphasizes Style Over Substance in Soho
Like it’s shifting time periods, Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns’ story mixes new ideas with familiar themes. While Last Night in Soho’s visual approach is uniquely Edgar Wright, its story of a big city ‘chewing up’ an idealistic young woman is not. And it’s a theme that never feel like it gets the depth of treatment it necessitates. More often than not, Wright’s visual style and 60s score overwhelms the subject. More time is spent on shocks and the story’s mystery than the emotional toll the predatory behaviour takes on its female characters.
If other parts of the movie are occasionally dissatisfying, McKenzie consistently gives audiences a satisfying arc.
Though Last Night in Soho showcases Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Glass) as a genuine ‘big movie star’, it’s Thomasin McKenzie’s (Old) movie from start to finish. McKenzie’s ‘Eloise’ shifts seamlessly from earnest and naïve to manic paranoia to steely determination. If other parts of the movie are occasionally dissatisfying, McKenzie consistently gives audiences a satisfying arc. And Taylor-Wilson’ performance of Petula Clark’s ‘Downtown’ defines big screen glamour. What’s disappointing about Last Night in Soho is it use of both Matt Smith and Terence Stamp. Neither actor gets much of an opportunity to bite into their roles. In particular, Smith’s ‘Jack’ never feels like the villain Wright and Wilson-Cairns intended.
Last Night in Soho a Visually Stunning Miss for Wright
Ultimately, Last Night in Soho is akin to going to a friend’s house where the furniture is covered in plastic and you can’t touch anything. That is, Wright has made a gorgeous movie filled with innovative camera shots and clever effects. That first trip into 1960’s London may be one of the most memorizing cinema moments this year. And all of the performances are excellent. Anya Taylor-Joy feels like a big ‘movie star’ here. Yet there’s also no denying that Last Night in Soho feels emotionally detached from its own story. Wright’s treatment of the themes are equal parts heavy-handed and unfulfilled. And while it’s always watchable, it falls well short of Wright’s previous work.