James Jay Edwards

Edgar Wright Creates Beautiful Chaos with Last Night in Soho

(Last Night in Soho, photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, courtesy of Focus Features)

James Jay Edwards reviews Last Night in Soho, a psychological horror film directed by Edgar Wright, and starring Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. (Focus Features

 

Edgar Wright is one of the most stylish modern directors working today. But his Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Shaun of the Dead, and Baby Driver were all just warmups for what is probably his most stylish movie yet – Last Night in Soho.

Last Night in Soho is about an aspiring fashion designer named Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie from Old and Jojo Rabbit) who relocates from her rural England town to the big city of London to go to school. Almost immediately, she has problems with her hard-partying dorm roommate, so she rents a little room of her own. In the room, Ellie has crazy dreams about a 1960s singer named Sandie (The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy) and her boyfriend/agent, Jack (Matt Smith from Doctor Who). As her dreams about Sandie get darker and darker, Ellie starts to wonder if they are really dreams, or if she has found a way to experience the past.

 

(Last Night in Soho, theatrical release poster,  courtesy of Focus Features)

The best way to describe Last Night in Soho is “cinematic chaos in the form of a ghost story.” Ellie’s story is pretty straightforward, but when she enters the dream world, all hell breaks loose. Her visions of Sandie’s life are dizzying and disorienting, and they get more so as Sandie’s life gets more and more tumultuous. This is where Wright’s style comes into play – the spastic camera work, clever visual effects, and jump-cut editing all play into the purposeful disarray. The audience lives Ellie’s anxiety and confusion.

And that’s a huge part of the point. See, Last Night in Soho is also a mystery, with Ellie trying to figure out what happened to Sandie so many decades earlier. And it spins wildly out of control, so much so that, by the end, the audience is just praying that Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917) have enough sense to reel it back in. And they do so magnificently. For all its craziness, Last Night in Soho sticks its landing perfectly.

 

(Last Night in Soho, photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, courtesy of Focus Features)

And then, there’s the music. Edgar Wright always has the perfect needle drop, and Last Night in Soho is no exception. Because of her close bond with her deceased mother, Ellie is obsessed with sixties British pop music, which is why she is drawn so blindly to her dreams of Sandie’s life – the two women are like soulmates from different eras. The movie’s soundtrack includes songs like Peter & Gordon’s “A World Without Love” and Dusty Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” along with a couple of genuine “that’s a cover?” moments with the original James Ray version of “I Got My Mind Set on You” and Sandie Shaw’s 1964 rendition of “(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me.” Oh, and since Sandie is a singer, there’s a wonderful performance of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” by Anya Taylor-Joy (which Sandie Shaw also covered, making one wonder if Shaw is Wright’s inspiration for Sandie?).

 

(Last Night in Soho, photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, courtesy of Focus Features)

Last Night in Soho is a beautiful movie, but it’s also a horror movie, and Wright does not shy away from the scary elements of the plot. Sandie’s life is packed with murder and mayhem, so Ellie’s dreams are loaded with ghosts and spirits. And Wright’s depiction of those ghosts and spirits is pretty creepy. The wails and moans of the undead only add to the anxiety of an already panic-inducing movie.

 


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In conclusion, Edgar Wright has done it again. He’s made a hip, stylish movie that will be a hit with the popcorn crowd as well as with the cinephiles. And it’s one of the best movies of the year.

Last Night in Soho is now playing in theaters.

 

 

Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.

 

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