Edgar Wright’s electrifying vision of spirits, 60s music, evil, and mystery.
Edgar Wright’s latest entry “Last Night in Soho” plays like a darker version of Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” from a decade ago. Except, the story is set in London, and the time period the main protagonist travels to is the 60s. It feels like something out of “The Shining” when it puts spirits in the real world.
The trailers and first half hour make the movie seem like it’s going to be stylish, and it is, but it turns out to be more sinister and thought-provoking. When I saw the trailers, I didn’t exactly know what to make of it, and it turns out to be a a smart and chilling thriller that has class, music, and twists and turns. It’s all handled quite well by both Wright and co-writer Kyrsty Wilson-Cairns, who also wrote the profound WWI drama “1917.” Here, she has another fresh piece of entertainment with another brilliant mind.
Thomasin McKenzie stars as the would-be fashion designer Ellie who gets accepted into the London College of Fashion. Her grandmother (Rita Tushingham) is supportive of her dreams, but she warns her to be careful in London since Ellie’s deceased mother didn’t see things the way she did.
Her first night with her fellow students is less than amazing, since they say insulting things about her behind her back, and a party disturbs her to the point of her nearly missing her first class. So, she finds a new apartment, supervised by the old and mysterious Ms. Collins (the late Diana Rigg in her farewell performance).
She then ends up being transported to London during the Swinging Sixties, where she ends up in the body of the wannabe singer Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), who dances with the savvy Jack (Matt Smith) in London’s hottest spot. Ellie can only be seen in her reflection or when none of the 60s people can see her. At this point, they’re only dreams, because her alarm clock goes off, just as things are about kick in further.
She’s the only character in her generation to love 60s music, like her grandmother did, which is why we get classic hits from The Kinks, Dusty Springfield, and The Who, etc., plus Taylor-Joy’s cover version of “Downtown.” This period is perfect for her, and so Ellie dyes her hair blonde, and uses Sandie’s fashion for her assignments.
But as she continues to see Sandie’s world in her dreams, things get darker. Ellie gets visited by an old man (Terrence Stamp), who recognizes her, Jack becomes abusive towards Sandie’s music career, evil spirits jumpscare Ellie and even when she’s back in her modern world, they still come in to haunt her.
Her only friend in the Hell she’s going through is her classmate and love interest John (Michael Ajao), who doesn’t think she’s crazy. In fact, he’s willing to help her out.
“Last Night in Soho” does get a little confusing when we see Ellie and Sandie merge in various dreams, but it still takes us deeper into the realities that emerge, and the horrors that come in. McKenzie and Taylor-Joy both continue to expand their horizons as young actress with the former having a youthful Shelley Duvall personality, and the latter looking attractive with her blonde hair and pink dress. And Rigg closes off her career tremendously well, and the last 20 minutes prove us even further. I can’t spoil anything for you.
The look and feel is brilliant with the right collaborators: production designer Marcus Rowland, cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, editor Paul Machliss, and the art direction team of Victoria Allowed, Tim Blake, Emily Norris, and Old van Der Vijver. The streets of London at night, the parties, the fire, and the ghosts all look riveting, and match quite well with the movie’s tone.
This is one of the most entertaining horror films of the year-one lively and original, and not so stupid and tedious like “Halloween Kills.” No idiotic choices necessary.