Last Night in Soho (2021) | Review
by Ryan Raitt
#KeepSohosSecrets; a request from Edgar Wright himself, the creative mind behind such classics as Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), regarding his new sixties infused horror flick Last Night in Soho (2021). A request that I will wholeheartedly abide by. Not because there’s a jaw-dropping twist, but because the plot is very unexpected. For Wright’s first foray outside of his playful and comedic style proves to be one of the most enthralling and engaging thrillers of the year, one that deserves to be seen without knowing anything prior, if possible.
Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns have penned a script that is both a love letter to ‘Swinging London’ and a surprising cautionary tale about romanticising the past. Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) absolutely adores the sixties, from the fashion to the music, but once she starts to bizarrely experience the life of rising star Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), she starts to see that her idolised time period is not as pretty as it seems.
Last Night in Soho is fundamentally an Edgar Wright film. His charm behind the camera and love for cinema is felt from the first frame to the very last, but this is certainly a distinct addition to his filmography. One that proves his mastery as a filmmaker.
While the film works brilliantly as a throwback British horror film (à la Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960)), it also serves as an incredibly unnerving commentary on the use of power and control within modern society. While Wright indulges in giallo-heavy moments and set pieces, it is the smaller scenes, which involve disturbing power plays, that provide the film’s scariest moments. Small winks and crooked smiles cut deeper than any knife. It is only within the film’s final act where Wright’s execution slightly stumbles. Sure to be divisive, Soho swings for some heavy messages in a way that will unfortunately turn some viewers off completely. Within the context however, I think Wright sticks the landing for his seedy and, at times, uncomfortable thriller.
As always Taylor-Joy is captivatingly elegant, commanding the screen every chance she gets, but Soho’s true standout is Thomasin McKenzie. Starting off as quiet and shy, her portrayal of Ellie drastically shifts as she experiences more and more horror. McKenzie’s stares that are full of terror, mixed with her bloodcurdling screams, showcase some of the best acting in a horror film this year; her reactions truly are chilling at times. Matt Smith is also worth mentioning, delivering a very unsettling and downright eerie performance throughout. While the late, great Dame Diana Rigg delivers her final film appearance, showcasing her talent effortlessly and leaving a lasting impression that remains long after the credits roll.
Last Night in Soho is fundamentally an Edgar Wright film. His charm behind the camera and love for cinema is felt from the first frame to the very last, but this is certainly a distinct addition to his filmography. One that proves his mastery as a filmmaker. The recreation of sixties’ London, the beautiful costume design and the fantastic soundtrack are enough to leave audiences in awe, the genuinely scary story unravelling throughout along with an enthralling performance from McKenzie make this one of the most impressive horrors of the year.