New to cinemas this weekend in both the UK and US, and arriving just in time for Halloween, is the British horror-thriller, Last Night in Soho. The movie – from director Edgar Wright – follows the story of a would-be fashion designer, who begins to experience strange and disturbing phenomena after moving to London.
In the movie, Ellie is a young girl who dreams of becoming a top designer. In order to follow these dreams, she moves to London to become a student at a leading university.
Upon arrival in the big city, Ellie checks into her student accommodation where she meets her roommate. But unlike Ellie, who is a quiet, unassuming girl, her roommate is a self-involved bitch, who takes every opportunity to make fun of Ellie.
Feeling low and finding the entire experience draining on her already fragile mental health, Ellie decides to move out of her allocated digs and into a nearby bedsit. Here she has the freedom to be herself – she can wear what she wants and play the music she adores, which is songs of the 1960s.
Her new arrangement is much better, but Ellie is still not in good place mentally, so when she goes to bed on her first night in her new home, she dreams of a happier place: the swinging ‘60s. In the dream, she finds herself becoming privy to the life of another person – a truly glamourous girl called Sandie.
Through Sandie, Ellie is able to indulge in the nightlife of the era, soaking up the look and feel of a glitzy night out. She has a wonderful time, and when she wakes up the next morning, there is a spring in her step.
The next night all Ellie wants to do is go back to sleep, so she can be transported to the ‘60s once again. But the more time she spends in Sandie’s world, the more Ellie discovers it is not quite what it seems, and as the sheen begins to fade, she starts to notice a darker edge to her dreamworld.
Last Night in Soho stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp and the late Diana Rigg, who appears in her final on-screen performance. The film is dark, mesmerising, incredibly intoxicating, and I’m going to say it now, my favourite movie of the year so far.
I don’t want to beat around the bush with this one, because while I want you to read this review so you can be informed about Last Night in Soho, I also want you to book tickets to go see this movie. If you are looking for something to watch over the Halloween weekend, forget Halloween Kills and put Venom: Let There Be Carnage on hold for now, because Last Night in Soho is the movie to watch.
This film is an absolute top-drawer, five-star picture. It is a fantastic piece of cinema, that needs to be watched on the big screen, so you can soak up the gorgeous cinematography and the fantastic sounds, and so you can immerse yourself in the story on a grand scale.
I’m not one for telling people they must watch a movie on the big screen, rather than in the comfort of their own home, but this is one of those rare occasions when I say GO TO THE CINEMA. This is a movie that is meant to be played loud, and I believe that you will get a little more out of it if you can see it in a darkened theatre.
But regardless of when and where you see this movie, just make sure you do. Edgar Wright has delivered some excellent movies over the years, from Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), to Baby Driver (2017) and more, and this latest film stands right up there with the best of them.
All of his movies have boasted something special and Wright has done it again with this picture, starting with a fantastic cast led by Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. Both actors are incredibly captivating throughout this film, with McKenzie playing the meek and mild Ellie, and Taylor-Joy taking on the role of the confident and breathtakingly beautiful ’60s socialite, Sandie.
The two work so well together and are both a delight to see on screen. Taylor-Joy slots neatly into the ‘60s aesthetic which makes up such a big part of this movie, while McKenzie becomes the tortured heart of the story.
Joining them in smaller, but still significant roles are Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, and Diana Rigg. Rigg in particular is fantastic in the part of Ellie’s landlady, and while this is her final acting role, it is a memorable one.
Outside of the core cast are some strong visuals, and boy, does this movie look good. The ‘60s dreamworld that Wright creates is so inviting, that it’s not difficult to see why Ellie finds herself initially drawn to it.
The first time this world is introduced on screen, it is truly outstanding. Watching it from the comfort of my chair in the cinema, all I kept thinking was how much I wanted to spend a night in ‘60s Soho, knocking back drinks and dancing.
Of course, once the movie moved into darker, more sinister territory, the notion to go out partying changed somewhat; but that initial introduction was no less fabulous. And it all worked so well because of the soundtrack.
Last Night in Soho has a wonderful soundtrack which includes music from the likes of Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw, and The Who, as well as a couple of tracks from the late Cilla Black. One of those tracks is Cilla’s No.1 hit, ‘You’re My World’ and the song’s use in this movie cannot be understated.
In fact, Cilla’s presence throughout this film can also not be understated. I guarantee, if you have ever counted yourself as a Cilla fan, there are moments in this movie when you will take second to contemplate what we lost when she passed away back in 2015.
But it’s not just the vintage music, ‘60s aesthetic, and Cilla Black nods that work, there are some very creepy visuals on display in this movie which are guaranteed to send a shudder down the spine of all horror fans. In fact, some of the visuals in this movie got so deep into my head that I physically jumped when a member of the audience walked past me on their way to the bathroom.
Did I think they were about to attack me in the darkness of the auditorium? Well, clearly I did – and that thought was put in my mind because of what I was seeing on screen.
But of course, I can only commend Edgar Wright for scaring the heck out of me so well, whilst simultaneously dazzling me at the same time. This film might have freaked me out a little, but it also wowed me too.
Last Night in Soho takes a number of cues from Italian giallo movies, including most notably a sumptuous colour palette which at times bathes this whole film in magnificent blocks of red, green, and blue. Those who are fans of the work of directors such as Dario Argento or Mario Bava will see their influences in the colour scheme of this film, as well as a few other touches, and it’s great to see this all being brought to the forefront of a British movie.
What is also great about this film is the story. This film feels incredibly timely, very powerful, and so well scripted.
While the movie is essentially a horror-thriller which straddles two different timelines, and brings in some impressive sights, it is also a film about the impacts of mental health. Strip back all of the bells and whistles, and at the heart of this movie is a tale about a girl struggling with the outside world.
This film features a couple of scenes in which Ellie actively wants to slip into a deep slumber, to escape to a dreamworld. This isn’t because she is tired and wants to catch up on a bit of rest; it is because she can’t take the reality of life.
Getting into bed and sending her mind into a different place is the only respite she can get. And in these moments, this movie paints a very important message about what it can be like living with depression and anxiety, and it’s a message that those who live with it will understand all too well.
I have absolutely nothing negative to see about Last Night in Soho. Nothing whatsoever.
I adored every frame of this movie, and as it was playing out all I kept thinking to myself was just how much I wanted it to continue. I am a fan of Edgar Wright’s movies in general, but there’s something about this one which really grabbed my attention.
Go and see Last Night in Soho. It doesn’t matter if you can take or leave horror, or if you’re into ‘60s music or not, this is an excellent film.