Written by Hayden Claborn, Writer
Last Night in Soho is a magnificent ghost story brought to us by filmmaker Edgar Wright(Baby Driver) who remains distinctive as ever. His newest film evokes a nostalgic gaze of 1960s London and horror classics such as Carnival of Souls but never wanders away from being its own thing. While it’s flaws are plenty, it’s worth getting lost in.
Fresh faced Ellie(Thomasin McKenzie) heads to London to study fashion design where she feels out of place in the big city. Her first night there is filled with catcalling and partying. This causes her to move into a building owned by Miss Collins(Diana Rigg) , an old tenant that has a clear past with the city. All of this is turned on its head when Ellie begins to have visions of a singer named Sandy(Anya Taylor Joy) from the 1960s. This world of flash and lust only gets darker as she goes deeper.
There are many horrors working here, misogyny and controlling men, but the most striking is how Last Night in Soho captures the horror of being a college student. Thomas McKenzie delivers a relatable performance packed with excitement for the future. In her mind London is a dream land of possibilities but like with all college students, her dreams are crushed. The real world is an anxiety triggering nightmare. If you don’t watch out it’s easy to become isolated and terrified.
When you move away from home, you’re not just leaving behind a place you’ve known your whole life but entering a one with it’s fair share of secrets. This film asks the questions if those secrets reached its hand out to you.
What makes the picture a ghost story is the haunting of the past that never was. “If I could live in any place at any time I’d live here, in London. In the 60s.” Ellie says near the beginning. The visions are rendered gorgeously by cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung who makes every corner drenched in neon light. At first the viewer is hypnotized by the beauty but soon becomes filled with fizzy terror. These lights are an omen of death.
A strength and weakness of Last Night in Soho is it merely evokes a feeling while never going deeper in it’s subtext. Anya Taylor Joy is great as Sandy, but her character never goes beyond the surface of Ellie’s fantasies. She is a stunning girl who becomes a woman in trouble. However the feeling evoked is rather strong and intoxicating if borderline fetishistic.
Edgar Wright’s newest outing might not have the taut writing of Scott Pilgrim vs The World or the emotional punch of Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End, but all it proves just how good of a filmmaker Wright is. It’s a must see. Last Night in Soho is one of the best films of 2021.