Coming to theaters this past weekend is a new picture from acclaimed English director Edgar Wright: the horror film “Last Night in Soho.” Wright is best known for his films “Hot Fuzz,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Baby Driver.”
“Last Night in Soho” stars Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise “Ellie” Turner, an aspiring fashion designer who enrolls in the London College of Fashion. “The Queen’s Gambit” star Anya Taylor-Joy and “Doctor Who” lead Matt Smith also head the film in supporting roles.
In a general sense, there is a lot to like about this film. Wright is an incredibly talented director and it really shows in “Last Night in Soho.” His rhythmic editing style may not be as up-front in this film as his others, such as “Hot Fuzz,” but it is still present nonetheless. The movie again showcases Wright’s skills in pacing, as the film seamlessly transitions between scenes, always at the proper tempo. Visually, this is one of Wright’s more unique pictures. The heavy usage of bright neon lights and elaborate set-pieces communicates its scenery.
Another positive aspect of the film are the performances. McKenzie is given the most to work with in this picture and she really shines, embodying the anxious nature of a new college student perfectly. Taylor-Joy and Smith are fantastic as well, but their roles are smaller in nature, making them not get as many moments to shine as the aforementioned McKenzie. Both McKenzie and Taylor-Joy are 25 or under and already have put together quite impressive resumes. They both are certainly actresses to watch in the upcoming decade.
On top of the performances and visual style, the movie does a fantastic job delivering its thematic messages. Much of the film deals with exploring the past, which it does very intelligently. Oftentimes in movies and other media, we tend to glorify the past, embracing the nostalgic looks, styles and norms of the times. We tend to gloss over the uglier sides of such times, pretending that the days of old were better than the present. “Last Night in Soho” avoids that trope, making sure to showcase both the alluring and darker sides of the past. In doing so, the film relays many thematic messages about the world of the past, but also about the present. The issues the film explored in the past are unfortunately quite present in our modern era, making this film also showcase how much and how little has changed in the last half-century.
While this film does have much to like, there are a few negative aspects. The first half of the film has a distinct rhythm and the flow of scenes is largely devoid of horror elements. The second half is quite different, being full of horror elements and having quite different pacing. While this transition was effectively executed, the first half is simply the stronger part of the movie.
The second half effectively concludes the narrative, but it doesn’t feel as fresh as the concepts presented in the first half of the picture. The horror is well-executed in concept and in style, but the story itself takes a dive. “Last Night in Soho” pays off many elements it sets up in the first half, but it doesn’t pay off its premise, which is my main criticism. The first half is incredibly clever in concept and execution, while the second half just seems to lose that cleverness. The ending isn’t bad by any means, but it definitely is not the best part of the picture, which often makes the film feel less successful.
In conclusion, Wright delivers a unique horror film with well-executed visuals, performances and themes, but ultimately, the film does not reach its potential due to a slightly disappointing second half. Nonetheless, I give this film a moderately strong recommendation.