Updated: Jan 18
In 2017, Writer-Director Edgar Wright cemented his place in pop culture with the pitch perfect Baby Driver, which was more or less his first box office hit! What would he create next? Something everyone did not expect: the eerily-haunting psychological horror film, Last Night in Soho (2021).
Eloise (played by Thomasin McKenzie) is an aspiring fashion designer who just began living in London after years in the countryside with her grandmother. When she moves into her new flat, she begins to have these visions of London during the 60s. In these visions, she appears to be someone else named Sandy (played by Anya Taylor-Joy). At first these visions are inviting and hypnotic as they represent the pinnacle of a bygone era. But as time goes on, the visions Eloise has become closer to a sinister nightmare. With ghosts haunting her every move, a mystery begins to unravel as her visions take a toll on her sanity. It’s up to Eloise to figure out what these visions mean before they completely destroy her mind.
Starting off with the best of the film, the soundtrack. Edgar Wright knows how to devise a soundtrack for his films, with films like Baby Driver (2017) proving this. Last Night in Soho’s (2021) soundtrack is capable of sending wave after wave of nostalgia, acting as a time machine every time Eloise is brought to 1960s London. With songs like “Puppet On A String” by Sandie Shaw and Anya Taylor-Joy’s rendition of “Downtown” by Petula Clark leading the charge in terms of setting the mood. These songs don’t always bring back good memories of the past, but can also wrack up tension between two characters. With the song “Eloise” by Barry Ryan being a prime example as the character Eloise confronts The Silver Haired Gentleman (played by Terrance Stamp) in a bar about Sandy. The song won’t let the audience breathe as our heroine begins to interrogate the elderly gentleman. Although we never get a confession, the scene takes a turn when the two’s argument ends with the old man getting hit by a cab in the middle of the street.
On to performances next: Leading the charge with her show-stopping and mesmerizing performance was Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandy. She sells the dreams of becoming a star and the hopelessness surrounding those dreams as they are slowly suffocated by the man who pimped her out for his business associates. Watching Sandy’s fall into despair is truly heartbreaking and we ultimately sympathize with her, even when the story takes unexpected twists later on, but more on that later. Another standout performance was Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise. She’s a lot like Sandy in a sense with the dreams of fame and the child-like innocence surrounding her following these dreams. Luckily, this innocence is not mistaken for ignorance as she deals with creeping dudes all over the place. She also tows the line between being haunted and going insane, as we the audience do not seem to know which she is until the final act. Seeing her as a sort of unreliable narrator, even to herself, really elevates the story with its unpredictability up to its final minutes.
Edgar Wright’s flare for visuals has always been a staple of his filmmaking style, never sacrificing impressive eye candy over storytelling. Last Night in Soho (2021) is no different, effectively telling a supernatural mystery with some seductive and nightmarish effects that you can’t look away from. They compliment the story so well even if they don’t always mold with the story’s structure, that it feels nearly impossible to see the plot twists and red herrings that happen in the 3rd act. But these twists in the story show the amount of pain and sorrow some characters carry and how that pain from the past can seep into the present. The twists can come off as predictable, but their reveal and payoff do not take away from the heartbreaking pathos the story was using.
Last Night in Soho (2021) is the film that stylized horror for a mainstream audience. It uses effective scares and disturbing visuals to sell a story that pays homage to classic horror films of the last 50 years and manages to tell something completely original. Anya Taylor-Joy steals the show as Sandy, proving once again why she is one of the most diverse actresses out there, along with a stellar manic lead performance from Thomasin McKenzie helping sell the unreliability of both the story and atmosphere. Even if the film’s style weighs down the story at times, it isn’t enough to diminish Edgar Wright’s consistency as a writer-director and adds to the ever extending legacy he is creating in the film industry.