Last Night in Soho marks writer/director Edgar Wright’s return to the horror genre that he put a cool, subversive spin on in Shaun of the Dead. Fans of Wright’s will appreciate this film as he crafts a screenplay that mostly lives up to its clever premise.
Thomasin McKenzie stars as Ellie, a fashion student in London who has ambitions of being a designer. She lives with her grandmother until she gets accepted to the London College of Fashion. Once there, she quickly moves out of her dorm room that has become a party zone, and looks for new boarding.
She finds an apartment room run by an elderly lady (Diana Rigg) who takes her in, but it isn’t long before Ellie is haunted by disturbing dreams of London in the Swinging ’60s and vivacious doppelganger Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy).
Sandie’s presence in Ellie’s dreams might be providing clues to a murder that occurred years ago and Ellie is perplexed as to what it could all mean. So are we, and that’s one of the strengths and weaknesses of Edgar’s script.
Not only does Sandie affect Ellie in her dreams, but also in reality. She makes it difficult for Ellie to concentrate on her fashion and she’s considered mentally unstable by her friends, the cops, and even her new boyfriend (Michael Ajao).
The dream sequences Wright concocts are a pure delight for any ’60s purist as he recreates the fashions, trends, and dance moves of that era and then punctuates it with equal doses of blood that would look right at home in Hammer horror or Dario Argento. No doubt those films provide influence.
Last Night in Soho stumbles during the finale and gives us the proverbial twist ending that proves to be simultaneously infuriating and revelatory.
The movie is about 116 minutes long. Out of those 116, I’d say the first 55 or so are ingenious, the next 25 to 30 are decent and the climax made me lose a bit of admiration.
Nevertheless, thanks to its style, atmosphere, cinematography, and performances, Last Night in Soho does achieve what Wright sets out to do, just not in spades.