“Only by facing your demons can you stop them from having power over you.” – Auliq Ice
I’ve mentioned this before with other directors but Edgar Wright is certainly in a group of particular filmmakers that elicit a kind of curiosity simply by being involved in whatever project they decide to attach themselves to. That curiosity is accompanied by the knowledge that no matter what they’re involved in or how, in this case directing, the project will be a spectacle. It will be an experience not to be missed. In this group I include Scorsese, Tarantino, Villeneuve, Cameron, Nolan and as I already said, Wright. This isn’t a comment on if the movie they’re involved in will be good or not, simply that it will be massive in some capacity. Chances are good when these creators are at the helm you’ll be leaving the theater with a grin and a mind full of thoughts about what it is you just saw.
Right now my thoughts about Last Night in Soho feel like a venue of a hundred thousand people trying to leave at the same time through a single exit. Things are a bit of a mess so be patient and let me sort some things out.
Wright has a particular ability of taking on a film that when described can sound mundane or not as interesting as it should be for someone with his skillset. And I think this is his true brilliance. He can take something as rudimentary as a bank heist flick, (Baby Driver) an otherwise forgettable actioner in someone else’s hands, and turn it into a pop culture staple. While not his first time with horror, this is his first in the subgenre of psychological horror. This time he’s taking on the premise of visions and demons of all kinds, both real and internalized.
Much like he did with Baby Driver, Wright utilizes music to enhance the overall experience. He places music in moments that feel happy and encouraging and others where the music is loud, overwhelming and uncomfortable like a radio with the sound blaring and no means of turning it down. He uses music to separate the main character from those that see her as different therefore a threat. The bullies that never seem to have anything interesting going on so they mess with the quiet kid. They do have one thing right; she is different but they have no idea just how much.
Thomasin McKenzie plays Eloise, a girl with big dreams and before long dreams of things and people and events already passed but as ever present as she is. She is a young woman in a city notorious for making people feel small and insignificant. London can, as any major city will, create a drowning sensation of homesickness and loneliness. This is where Eloise finds herself as visions begin to plague her nights and soon her every waking moment. At first these adventurous thoughts are exciting and Eloise is more than willing to go along. However it doesn’t take much for her to realize she is witnessing a woman of the past set on a path that will be as far from her dreams of singing as humanly possible. What feels like nothing more than a tale of woe for one woman, her deadly secrets begin to unearth themselves to the harsh gaze of the neon signs lighting the seedy streets of Soho, London.
Last Night in Soho is a crazy ride that also manages a healthy amount of story building. While the scarier, more horror elements take their time to reveal themselves, the minutes leading up to that is character building. It’s time meant to establish each character’s place in this crazy setting so that when things begin to expose and explode, things can feel obvious only to have them turned on their head.
The decisions made by the main characters create a profile for each of them. These facts subconsciously create certain biases, certain expectations for each character. Once these are in place Wright rips everything out from under us as the observers. He then has a playground of self imposed chaos that he relishes in as he twists and pokes and manipulates. This all leads to a revelation and epic finale that is absolutely head spinning as it subverts all preconceived notions about where we all thought it was headed. You can almost hear him laughing from the editing room as it all plays out on screen.
I think one of the greatest tools used in horror, a tool which Wright puts to good use here, is the story element of isolation. You can physically isolate someone in a haunted house, a desolate jungle or hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean. Or in the case of Soho, you can isolate a person in the middle of a densely populated city. I think this is one of my favorite things in horror when it’s done properly. To make a character feel alone and far from help in a city with people in every direction is an act of brilliance. Every bit of Eloise’s isolation is coming from her own mind. While outside influences surround her she is locked away in her mind with demons from the past of a stranger whose secrets are spilling all over Eloise. Much the same as us, Eloise is convinced of what she has seen only to discover nothing is as it seems. In a story where she searches for the good guys and the bad, she finds that life is nothing like the stories we often tell ourselves to feel better about our own existence. Sometimes everyone is bad.
Last Night in Soho can feel messy at times but never out of Wright’s control. He is steering us in every direction all at once and he’s hoping we’ll be along for the ride. Remember his movies are anything but simple and rarely ever typical. He’s not interested in making something you’ve seen a million times before but he does take your expectations into account as he jerks the wheel into oncoming traffic. He wants excitement and originality and Last Night in Soho is definitely not lacking in inventiveness. Wright and horror is horror with flair. Embrace it.
Rated R For: bloody violence, sexual content, language, brief drug material and brief graphic nudity
Runtime: 116 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery
Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao
Directed By: Edgar Wright
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 9/ Acting: 9/ Directing: 8.5/ Visuals: 8
OVERALL: 9 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below:
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