Edgar Wright has made a career out of clever and funny riffs on genres. He has tackled horror-comedy, comic books, and action before but always with a bit of a wink. His new film is a departure of sorts. Last Night in Soho is a full-blooded horror film, light on humor and whimsy. The menace and dread build slowly in the film. It is a thrilling picture that loses its way in the final act but holds many delights within it.
Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is a young woman from Cornwall who moves to London to attend fashion school. London, as she has been warned by her grandmother, is a dangerous place. The cab driver she first encounters seems nice at first but soon begins to leer and make jokes about stalking her and other young girls. Eloise runs from the cab and it is very clear that this version of London is seedy while also being grand.
The film centers around two women in different eras. Eloise is talented and wants very much to be a fashion designer. She is obsessed with the music and clothing from the 1960s. Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a glamorous aspiring singer who Eloise becomes each night she goes to sleep. Sandie is living in 60s London, performing in Soho nightclubs. Eloise is fascinated by Sandie and her style, using her for inspiration in her design classes.
The scene where they meet is stunning. Wright shows his skills at directing in this sequence as Eloise is mysteriously transported to Soho in the 60s. It dazzles on a technical level and is more mature than Wright's usual fast-paced editing. The beautiful camera work, music, set design, and costumes transport you and put you in the shoes of Eloise. You understand exactly why she can't wait to go to bed each night so that she can live in this delicious world.
What is all this getting at? Well as Eloise learns more about Sandie's life, the facade drops and things get darker and darker. Last Night in Soho is many things but at the core, it seems to warn about the dangers of idolizing an era and a place. It also is about all the awful ways in which men keep women down and the rage that boils in these women as a result.
The film only falters in its final act. The tension drops away as the focus shifts from Eloise's psyche to a broader surprise. Still, the film is full of sinister pleasures. The look, mood, and music are intoxicating. Terence Stamp shines in a brief role as does Matt Smith. This also marks the final role for Diana Rigg. You can sense Wright's passion for what he is creating in every scene.