While Shaun of the Dead established Edgar Wright as one of our best comedy directors, it also showcased his ability to direct a legitimate horror film. Since then, Wright has continued to expand his repertoire with action, sci-fi, and graphic novel adaptations. He even directed his first documentary earlier this year with The Sparks Brothers. It’s taken over a decade and a half, but Wright finally returns to horror with his latest picture. Although Last Night in Soho features some of the dark comedy associated with Wright, this is a psychological horror film through and through.
To a certain extent, Last Night in Soho is unlike anything Wright has tackled before. Yet, it encompasses many of the hallmarks Wright is known for, such as fast-paced editing and a killer soundtrack. It never feels like Wright is repeating himself, however. His style translates flawlessly into psychological horror, leaving us to wonder why he didn’t tackle a project like this earlier. It’s a solid balance between the unexpected and what we’ve come to expect from an artist of Wright’s caliber.
Thomasin McKenzie is delightfully meek as Eloise, a fashion student struggling to find her place in London. She rents a room from an elderly landlady named Miss Collins, played by the late Diana Rigg in her final performance. When Eloise goes to bed, she’s suddenly transported back to the 1960s when Café de Paris owned the night scene and Thunderball was playing to sold-out audiences. Ironic that Rigg was star in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service just four years later. Eloise sees the world through the eyes of an aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). With beauty, talent, and a handsome gentle in Matt Smith’s Jack, Sandie has everything Eloise dreams of. Behind the blonde hair and pink dresses, though, lurks a dark secret. Eloise soon begins to question reality while growing increasingly suspicious of an elderly stranger played by Terence Stamp.
Wright’s portrait of the Swinging Sixties possesses echoes of Wonderland. The Through the Looking-Glassparallel is emphasized with the use of mirrors. Sandie and Eloise perfectly reflect each other in a masterclass of editing, cinematography, and production design. There’s an especially complex shot that sees Sandie walk down a staircase with a wall of mirrors in the background, reflecting Eloise from a variety of different angles. Last Night in Soho is full of striking imagery that harkens back to back to 60s horror classics. For such a visually driven, though, the final act overloads on exposition.
The best way to describe Last Night in Soho is Midnight in Paris meets Psycho. While Psycho is a nearly perfect film, its one drawback is the psychiatrist’s tacked-on explanation. Likewise, the final act of Last Night in Soho spends too much time spelling out its twist. While the twist itself is a satisfying one, the execution can feel more like an ending explained video rather than just an ending. Nevertheless, Wright still delivers a bonkers, atmospheric finale with a fairly unique approach to the #MeToo movement. At its core are two powerhouse performances from McKenzie and Taylor-Joy, who are at the top of their game.