Last Night In Soho is surely one of the most anticipated films of this festival, given baby’s Driver’s immense popularity and the fact it started screening in the US last month, before this festival had kicked off. The screening I was a part of was certainly sold out.
This unique addition to the horror genre is arguably Edgar Wright’s most ambitious film to date, drawing on numerous influences to create a thoroughly unique, unsettling experience that is so realistic it can be interpreted in countless ways, especially among different age groups. It follows young hopeful Elly (Thomasin McKenzie) who is moving to London to study fashion, against her grandmother’s advice of the big busy city. Leaving behind a bedroom filled with classic records and film posters, it’s clear that her connection to the 1960’s is deep
After finding new accommodation, Elly falls asleep only to wake as a different woman in a different era. In a meticulously directed scene, Elly looks in the mirror and sees the beautiful, colourful reflection of Anna Taylor-Joy’s Sandy, a confident blonde knock-out who wants be a part of 1960’s Soho. Both mirror the other perfectly in a hypnotic sequence that introduces Wright’s unique twist to events that are already surreal: Elly becomes a spectator, watching Sandy from mirrors in awe as she sees a woman she wishes she could be. At other times though, she seems to be in control of Sandy. The dreams prompt a makeover of sorts for Elly’s current self as she enjoys the bizarre experiences so much that she doesn’t question any part of it.
It soon becomes clear that both Sandy and the unique use of mirrors are linked to Elly’s unhealthy obsession to a past era she never lived through. Attitudes like ‘back in the good ol’ days’ are figments of our imagination as our brain romanticises the past – Wright uses this fact and his own experiences when arriving in London for the first time to explore the darker sides of 60’s Soho, creating a realistic emotional core that enhances everything surrounding it.
Taking cues from Baby Driver, Wright effortlessly synchronises sound effects and music with what’s on screen. The 60’s scenes all use a psychedelic, technicolour-style palette in contrast to the dull depiction of current-day London. As Elly’s visions of the 60’s begin to invade her current-day life, the colours follow in an aggressive manner. Nightmarish sequences amplify in intensity as a result and parallel to this is a fading line between past and present, reality and fantasy.
Last Night in Soho sits alongside Get Out (2016, Jordan Peele) and Hereditary (2018, Ari Aster) as a horror film that continues the revival of the genre. Creatively though, it surpasses both: having satirised horror movie clichés himself in Shaun of the Dead (2004), Wright knew exactly what to avoid. There are no jump scares to be found here as the final act combines the colourful, stylish presentation of Italian giallo with Kafka-like dream logic to finish an emotionally engaging film whose international debut received a standing applause.
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