Review of Last Night in Soho, another almost musical by Edgar Wright

Last night in Soho is the horror equivalent of a trendy song, even without knowing how to capture the magic of the classics to which it owes its existence. Director and co-writer Edgar Wright, known for his comedic work with Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, creates a psychological thriller about moving to London from a small English town; When it comes to that specific dynamic, he’s very adept at creating a sense of overwhelm. On the other hand, the story’s supernatural and mystery elements only come to life on a few occasions (also when they openly draw attention to their influences), but the film also moves with enough smoothness and rhythm to be enjoyable at its best. part.

Although it does not have the essence, or even the same genre, that Baby Driver (Wright’s most recent work, which is in turn an homage to Walter Hill’s crime thriller, Driver), it seems cut from the same musical pattern, opening with a scenic silhouette of teenage girl Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) dancing in a dress designed by herself and made from newspapers, before the lights are turned on to reveal a quaint room full of mannequins. Eloise has just been accepted to study fashion in London, and despite her grandmother’s warnings about the city’s seedy characters (its lewd men in particular), she’s excited to go. She also has a sixth sense, which she and her grandmother talk about with surprising frankness. This allows her to glimpse her late mother in her bedroom mirror, and although this part of her story never becomes very important (beyond Eloise’s partial reason for studying fashion, as it was also her mother’s dream ), the practical nature of his skill sets a story in which the most compelling and eventually macabre visions take center stage.

Nevertheless, the strongest elements of the film have little to do with the paranormal. When Eloise arrives at the university, she immediately stands out among the elegant people of the city, especially her roommate, Jacosta, an evil girl with two faces and dressed in designer suits, who is turned into a fascinating character by actress Synnøve Karlsen. and fully fledged using little more than fleeting glances that betray deep insecurities. Although Jacosta has fewer scenes with Eloise as the film progresses (she is virtually absent in the second half), it helps to paint a more complete picture of the crushing weight the new students feel. While Jacosta responds to pressure by creating a hardened personality, Eloise is on the verge of breaking down and, in an act of self-preservation, moves into a modest little apartment rented by a stern landlady who radiates a strange warmth, Miss Collins (Diana Rigg).

The apartment’s dated decor fits in perfectly with Eloise’s love of clothes and music from the past (not unlike Edgar Wright’s own retro cinematic sensibilities, brought out from a classic rock soundtrack ). He loves the place, although the twinkling lights of a nearby French bakery fill the room with colors of red and blue, an excuse to create an occasional visual resemblance to horror movies. Yellow Italian stories about young women in new academic settings – such as Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Phenomena (1985) – although this aesthetic is rarely used to actual dramatic or environmental effect. Eloise falls even more in love with the apartment on her first night, when she is transported back to a dream of Soho in the mid-sixties. Night after night, close your eyes and delve into the story of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a young singer who lived in the same room and whose artistic dreams coincide with yours., and Jack (Matt Smith), a nightclub manager whose interest in Sandie seems to straddle business and romance.

Edgar Wright makes a dazzling visual display when he introduces Eloise, and us, into this world.. Eloise alternately sees things through Sandie’s eyes, and from behind the mirrors in which she substitutes her reflection, as if she were both participant and observer in an exuberantly designed period film with striking sets and costumes. During the day, Sandie’s memories begin to influence Eloise’s work, while at night, Eloise dances through Sandie’s experiences as a combination of digital tricks and bold choreography results in riveting full length sequences, in which Smith swings through the ballrooms with Mackenzie and Taylor-Joy, as if the two actresses occupy the same space. However, this dreamy romp soon gives way to something darker, both when Sandie’s story takes winding turns, and when Eloise crosses paths with a strange old man (Terence Stamp) who might have a connection to these events.

Before long, Eloise’s visions begin to reflect her (and her grandmother’s) fears of male impositions. As a young girl in a crowded new city, she has to endure more harassment than she is used to, and as Sandie’s side story turns into a charged version of her own, gives rise to nightmares of faceless men, whose twisted appearance pays homage to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) (another psychological thriller from which Last Night in Soho borrows several details, albeit not as carefully) and which embodies Eloise’s fears of assault and non-sexual attention. desired.

Despite all that doesn’t work, his musical energy keeps the fun going.

Given Eloise’s protective nature and her new college environment, her fears are adjacent to a more general anxiety around sex, parties, and adult life. This, in turn, ends up in contrast to the presence of a male suitor, his sweet and helpful classmate John (Michael Ajao). It works when the movie wants to provide Eloise with a respite and a chance to revert to the carefree innocence of her pre-college days, but John also feels incredibly malformed when Wright tries to use his blackness as a sloppy parallel to Eloise’s feelings of exclusion. (This extends to little more than lost jokes about London’s demographics.)

As Eloise delves into the grisly mystery of Sandie, Edgar Wright’s influences become more apparent, including visual nods to various Hitchcock films and various attempts, both occasional and unsuccessful, of the kind of haunting voyeurism that Michael Powell cemented in the collective consciousness of terror with the slasher film The Panic Photographer (1960). In its most charged moments, create moments that seem straight out of the classic giallos as the camera zooms in and fixes on the actresses eyes (both directly and in highlights) and Wright cleverly creates some operatic moments in the vein of bloody schlock-horror, but these are often fleeting, and feel disjointed as they collide with the film’s otherwise beautiful focus. .

The Sandie-centric mystery puts a strain on Eloise’s sanity, allowing Mackenzie to unleash the kind of fearless, crazed woman acting horror that was more common in decades past (and often in cheaper productions). But that mystery also turns out to be the movie’s downfall when it matters most; usually, She’s unappealing and not that hard to figure out, so when her twists should be shocking they only provoke shrugs.

However, despite the eventual failures of the third act (including moments when Wright’s thematic focus on misogyny starts to get flimsy), Last Night in Soho has more than enough momentum and visual flair to ensure that even your most familiar moments never turn out to be boring..

If Edgar Wright did a real musical …

The greatest strengths and weaknesses of Last Night in Soho come from the same place: his attempts to replicate a far better psychological horror from decades past. However, despite everything that doesn’t work, his musical energy always keeps the fun intact.

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Review of Last Night in Soho, another almost musical by Edgar Wright