Every time director/writer Edgar Wright releases a movie, every film nerd in existence will be interested at the very least. He always has a unique stamp on his movies that no other director could leave, the cast is always stellar, and the soundtrack is always a character of its own. All of this remains to be true for LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, which serves as Wright’s first endeavor into the horror genre. Because of this, audiences receive an entirely different product than they usually do from Wright; the characteristic witty sense of humor is nowhere to be found here, instead traded for a more serious and nostalgic tone. Unfortunately, LAST NIGHT IN SOHO does not work anywhere near as much as every other Wright film does, mainly because he tries to make too many different movies at once. It has an amazing first hour, but from there the movie goes in too many directions at once and never reaches its destination with any of them.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, among many other things, serves as a reminder that living in the past and ignoring the present can be dangerous. We follow Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), an inspiring fashion designer who has moved to London, the city of her dreams, in order to make her love of fashion into a career. After she learns the hard way that the city and the people in it are not what she expected, she leans into her love of music and culture from the 1960s. She still listens to vinyl records and wishes she was part of the old-school culture of London 50 years ago. She soon finds herself mysteriously slipping back in time and spending her nights with a beautiful aspiring singer (Anya Taylor-Joy) trying to make it big time in glitzy and glamorous 1960s London. However, the past is not the paradise Eloise thought, and she ends up desperately trying to escape the demons of that time from consuming her mind.
The movie has a strong build, with McKenzie delivering yet another great performance that makes the character-building easy for Wright. Her loneliness and isolation are palpable during the first leg of the film, so when she slips into the land of her dreams it seems like a believable and necessary escape from the social hell of today’s world. Sometimes Wright overplays this feeling by making certain female “bully” characters hyperbolic and exaggerated, but the point is nonetheless made. The direction in the first leg of the film is immaculate and on par for what I expected coming into an Edgar Wright production. The way McKenzie is cut into the scenes that center around Taylor-Joy is movie-making magic at its best, and creates some beautiful and enthralling sequences. The movie contains another star-affirming performance from Taylor-Joy and a standout swan song from Diana Rigg, who damn near steals the entire movie with her final performance.
Once the horror starts, however, the motifs of the movie get a bit muddled and the plot starts clashing with the themes. Around the middle of the film, Wright takes the narrative in a promising direction that involves the exploitation and objectification of women in a patriarchal society. By the time the third act comes around, the movie turns into an aimless scare-fest that doesn’t seem to know how to handle its own subject matter. Much of this period involves McKenzie’s character Eloise running around the city for no particular reason and without any goals, with random events happening to her that do not feel scary or consequential. Wright lost me with his final twist, which not only feels tacked on in order to create unnecessary shock factor, but contradicts the most powerful themes of the rest of the narrative. In retrospect, his idea for this twist (and the whole movie, really) is great on paper, but in practice feels in poor taste and a distraction from the real interesting story that could have been told here.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO is by no means a bad movie, but it never sticks the landing in a meaningful way that will cause audiences to walk away from it in awe as they did with films such as Baby Driver or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Wright still shows off his directing chops here, but his script could have used far more work, especially in the second half. Many story beats do not seem to stick as much as they should given the impact of the subject matter, and some major climactic scenes come across as rushed or packed instead of forceful or shocking. This movie will likely polarize many viewers with its ending, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as others might, I still appreciate any original story that will cause healthy debate among film fans. There are still a lot of great ideas packed in this movie, and for that alone it might be worth the watch.