Edgar Wright’s latest foray into the horror genre has many of his usual hallmarks, but the performances of stars Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy are other-worldly.
By Sean Blanford
Images courtesy of TIFF
Edgar Wright has proven that he knows how to tell amazing stories without sticking to the boxes of a singular traditional genre. Whether it’s a horror/comedy (Shaun of the Dead), comic-book rom-com (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), or alien invasion sci-fi/buddy comedy (The World’s End), he weaves his narrative with a combination of an excellent soundtrack, great script, and at least one (if not several) amazing performances. His latest film, Last Night in Soho, maybe his most ambitious. Giving the audience a taste of a coming-of-age comedy/period ghost story that leaves us laughing while our fingernails are firmly clenched into our seats, as well as two A-level performances from stars Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy.
McKenzie is Eloise, an aspiring fashion designer who moves from her countryside home to attend one of London’s most prestigious fashion schools. Her naivety first charms her new classmates, but the bloom soon falls off the rose, and she decides to move out of her student housing into an available room of Miss Collins (Diana Rigg in her final performance before passing in 2020). While there, she is mysteriously able to enter a 1960s era Soho, seeing the time while following Sandy (Taylor-Joy), an aspiring lounge singer.
In terms of plot specifics, that’s all that needs to be said. Soho is a film wrapped in a mystery, and thankfully the trailer doesn’t spoil many of the major moments of the film. There are many twists and turns along the way, and for the most part, many of them work. This is truly a film in street stages and three different genres that allow the audience to ease their way into the story without being jerked into something expected too soon. While both actresses play top-billing, we’ve seen a coming-out party for Taylor-Joy in films like Split and, most recently, her work on the series The Queen’s Gambit. However, this is the biggest starring role for McKenzie to date, proving how versatile an actress she can be.
Aesthetically, this is a hallmark Wright film with a killer soundtrack and a screenplay with snappy dialogue, co-writing the script with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Her previous works writing several episodes of the Showtime series Penny Dreadful give us that dimension of horror that comes off as truly chilling rather than campy. There are segments of the film that feel unnecessarily repetitive, extending the run time to nearly two hours when with some scaling back to make it a bit tighter, it could have been just that much better. This is a minor quibble on an otherwise nearly flawless film.
Horror can be a love-it-or-hate-it genre that sometimes gets unwarranted flack for being too simplistic or “easy.” However, thanks to combining a stellar all-around cast, set design, cinematography, and music, Last Night in Soho is as well-rounded of a horror film that you’ll find. So don’t sleep on good horror because good horror knows how to make you lose yours.
Grade: 4.5/5 (A)