GORE IN THE STORE
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO ****
Directed by Edgar Wright.
Starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Diana Rigg, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp.
Horror, UK, 116 minutes, certificate 18.
Released in the UK in cinemas 29th October.
Edgar Wright’s neon coloured eulogy to an ever-changing city finally arrives on screen after its pandemic induced delay. The prospect of Wright going full-on horror and ditching his usual comedy stylings has been an enticing one, so to say this has been long and keenly anticipated by long-time fans of his kinetic style and skill in melding genres goes without saying. During its year long hiatus from the screen, we have witnessed the sad passing of one of the film’s stars, Dame Diana Rigg to whom this is touchingly dedicated, and the ascension of its leading duo; Anya Taylor-Joy, whose starring turn in last year’s Netflix hit THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT has propelled her to becoming a full-on star helping re-popularise chess again and Thomasin McKenzie, whose performance in the divisive JOJO RABBIT was the one aspect that audiences could agree on.
This bitter sweet conflation seems more than suited to Wright’s film which celebrates its titular area’s history whilst never shying away from the darker, seedier aspects which have always lingered alongside its fashionable, show business driven side. Last Night in Soho has one foot in the past and the other in the present due to Eloise, a naïve young student newly arrived from the countryside to become a fashion designer. With her love for the culture of the 1960’s above all else, she is immediately at odds with her fellow students, especially entitled roommate Jocasta who delights in continuously one-upping her and putting her down at every opportunity, much to the delight of those who flock around her. Seeking refuge in a small bedsit, Eloise soon finds herself experiencing visions of the 60’s London outside her window. A bustling nightlife sound tracked to Cilla Black belting out tunes in a glitzy nightclub while Thunderball is playing alongside Dr Terror’s House of Horror in the grand cinema upstairs.
Eloise seems to be experiencing this time shift through Sandy, a wide-eyed blonde all set to take the stage by storm with the help of the charming and dangerous Jack. Finding herself seduced and energised by her mysterious journeys, Eloise soon out about the darker side of Soho as well as the dark secrets that still lurk on the streets and may be coming for Eloise as she finds out more and more of the life that Sandy led and where it, and Jack, ultimately took her.
Dazzlingly captured by cinematographer Chung Hoon-Chung, Wright’s vision of a long-gone London makes for one of the years most seductive films. Wright captures the heyday of the capital in an impressively nostalgic fashion that matches Quentin Tarantino’s exhaustive look at L.A. in his own ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. Delivered at a more feverish pitch, especially in its giallo and De Palma inflected, blood red second half, Wright more than proves himself as a straight down the line horror director here holding back on his lighter comedic instincts. While his skills could hardly be doubted it is still a delight to see him flex his more dramatic side with this supernatural thriller that has a beating, tender yet bloody heart at its centre. His stellar cast impresses particularly McKenzie, whose transformation from wallflower to blonde haired, panda eyed and white trench coat wearing siren, inspired by her night-time time travelling will no doubt go onto inspire Halloween costume tributes in the future, as well as the glamorous retro looks of Anya Taylor-Joy’s Sandy who also indulges in a show stopping acapella rendition of Petula Clarke’s Downtown.
At close to two hours, it feels slightly stretched out towards its twist laden end. Some may find offense at one particular revelation that seems to have come across as pandering while others will argue that it falls exactly in line with the films look at the darkness that is often hidden by loving nostalgia.
Cinematic and darkly exciting, Last Night in Soho proves itself as an exciting evolution in Wright’s already impressive filmography. As a paean to a gone but not forgotten moment in culture like no other it succeeds while it also manages effortlessly to be one of the years best examples in pure entertainment that you will catch on a cinema screen this year.