1 Hr 56 minutes, R for abundant stabbings and slashings.
Fair Value of Last Night in Soho: $15.00. While not a game changer for the ghost mystery genre, it’s a ripping good film with an abundance of Edgar Wright’s signature style.
TL, DR: Fashion design student finds a cheap flat (due to being haunted) and begins to believe there’s a serial killer loose in Soho.
A Potent Parable about Nostalgia: Nostalgia is the central theme of the film. Protagonist ingenue Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is as twee as twee can be, all self-made clothes and Kinks b-sides. She’s essentially a Wes Anderson character dropped into a Dario Argento film. Owing to her being rustic and quiet, she doesn’t fit in with university life, and rapidly moves to a cheap room being sublet in the Soho neighborhood.
And there, she begins dreaming of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a beautiful starlet in Swinging London. She has glamour, adventure, a burgeoning life in the London music/theatre scene, and a handsome boyfriend (Matt Smith). But things start going sour and sinister and sleazy. And Eloise comes to believe she’s sleeping in a dead girl’s bed.
Much like Hot Fuzz and At the World’s End, the central moral of the film is in the futility of going back towards the past.
Who Will Like This Film? British people who enjoy giallo cinema, albeit with more emphasis on style than slaughter. It’s a love letter to London, in many ways.
Who Will Not Like This Film? It’s a very British film, with an abundance of British slang. Not quite as thick as a Guy Ritchie film, but some of the finer points may elude an American audience. Also, it takes a while to build up- and the beginning really hits a lot of cliches (along the lines of Sixth Sense and Stir of Echoes) before Wright starts to really play with and twist the cliches. Also, it’s not as comedic as Wright’s other films, so those looking for humor will be disappointed.
A Little Less Action, a Little More Conversation: Another demerit for this film is that it doesn’t spend a lot of time building emotional weight to the characters. It’s too busy in moving the plot along, and as such, it doesn’t really explore some potentially rich sub-themes. For example, I kept expecting Eloise’s grandmother to turn up for some critical clue or exposition; or hoping that there’d be more building on the parallels to Suspiria and The Neon Demon. I’m just saying that plenty of other film-makers have done more with the theme of nobody listening to the concerns of young women- Leigh Wannell (Invisible Man) and Ari Aster, to cite some recent works.
And that’s why this film is merely good and not great. It’s a solid piece, definitely a fine choice for a horror movie marathon, but it’s not something beyond what we’ve already known. But kudos nonetheless- even Edgar Wright’s lesser works are still a cut above most of what you can find at the box office.
P.S., Buy the Soundtrack– if there’s one thing that’s absolutely impeccable, as usual, it’s Edgar Wright’s soundtrack for this film It’s a Dusty Springfield heavy slice of Northern Soul and mid-60s lounge music, and if that’s your bag it’s a rich well of sonic references.