Director Edgar Wright’s new film, “Last Night in Soho,” has hit theaters, showing a new side of the director. Wright, known for “Shaun of the Dead,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Baby Driver,” switches it up this time, taking his first real step into horror.
“Last Night in Soho” follows Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), a young girl who moves from the country to London to follow her dream of attending fashion school. The move is difficult for her, but she finds solace when she encounters visions of Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy), a 1960s singer. Eloise finds herself wrapped up in the 60s, and the dark secrets of Sandy’s life threaten to creep into Eloise’s.
“Last Night in Soho” is a distinct change of direction for Edgar Wright. Wright is primarily known for comedy and for movies that are larger than life. Whether it be the pop music of the Cornetto trilogy, the comic and video game effects in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” or the music-synced action in “Baby Driver,” Wright has consistently made films that are not trying to be realistic and instead use the nature of the medium of film to emphasize his ideas and enhance his stories in ways only film can.
“Last Night in Soho” is not necessarily realistic, being a fantastical horror movie about a woman who travels to the 60s in her dreams. However, it is shot in a way that creates images that could feasibly be seen and is not nearly as over-the-top in style as his other films. It is also completely different in its tone, with Wright fully plunging into horror and almost entirely leaving out the levity that viewers have come to expect from him. Of course, this is not necessarily a problem and it is often exciting to see directors try things they have never done before. It is, however, important to know where the man behind the camera came from for this movie.
As could be expected with Wright, “Last Night in Soho” succeeds most through its creativity. When Eloise ventures back in her visions to see Sandy, the film changes out its flat, dusty rooms in favor of extravagant bars with bright lights. The two women share a reflection, with Eloise sometimes appearing as Sandy’s reflection and vice versa. This effect is employed often but never gets old and is used creatively to show how Eloise is getting pulled into this different world. As the film goes on, the horror elements increase in frequency and completely succeed in creating an unsettling set of images. The film even has a few completely surreal images near the conclusion that deliver on the promise the movie makes with its premise. “Last Night in Soho” is fairly tame by Edgar Wright standards, but it still has many moments that fans of his will recognize as the creative vision they’ve come to love.
As the movie runs toward its conclusion, there are a number of twists that completely change the movie. Unfortunately, a lot of these twists bring the film down. Without getting into spoilers, these twists mostly serve to make the messaging and ideas of the movie extremely muddy. As twists pile up in the last section of the movie, what was once a clear vision no longer seems so easily understood. Plus, several of the twists themselves are either too obvious or completely out of nowhere, with none of them hitting the middle ground of a satisfying yet surprising twist.
“Last Night in Soho” may not seem like an Edgar Wright movie on the surface, but viewing makes his influence clear, even if it is not as obvious as his other movies. The film has some great moments, but crashes and burns toward the end. Horror fans or Wright diehards might find something here, but it’s likely to leave many viewers wanting more.
“Last Night in Soho” is now playing in theaters.
By Ben Lindner