Just like its two contrasting leads, Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night in Soho’ leaves you with two polarizing opinions. It’s the type of movie that feels like it should be remembered fondly and to a certain extent does but it’s also deeply flawed, so much so that it gets in the way of this becoming a modern classic. Just like an actual night in Soho, this movie features some extravagant highs and questionable lows. It is a movie that is in many ways acting against itself, it genuinely feels like there are two movies going head to head and by the end, they mesh together to form one of the most bizarre endings in recent memory. Considering this was a Halloween release, think of this movie as both a trick and a treat.
major spoilers for ‘Last Night in Soho’ are featured in this review.
The selling point of ‘Last Night in Soho’ is without a doubt the strikingly original concept. A college student that transports to the 1960s in the body of a mysterious woman whenever she sleeps. There are a million different movies that could’ve been made with this concept and the one that we got is sadly not doing this concept the justice it deserves. ‘Last Night in Soho’s biggest issue is that it is a tonally confused mess. The opening twenty minutes feature as much nuance or originality as a CW pilot. Despite the movie’s ultimate warning about romanticizing time periods, this first act feels like a cinematic adaptation of the phrase ‘I was born in the wrong generation’. It genuinely couldn’t have felt any more soulless. The movie then starts to introduce some excitement as we transport to the sixties. This is when the movie changes gears and starts acting like the movie it’s supposed to be. It’s fabulous, enchanting and it features what is arguably one of my favourite scenes of the year. The movie then boldly asks you to adapt between the rapidly changing tones. As it progresses, it somehow manages to get even worse. It feels like it was being written as it was progressing. The third act in particular just goes off the rails with shallow twists made purely for shock value and a reveal which genuinely dismembered any hope I had for loving this movie.
Before going into why this movie ultimately crashes and burns, quite literally, it’s also fair to mention the redeeming qualities it possesses. It’s actually quite frustrating that this movie ends up as bad as it is because the potential is clear as day. There are so many elements that understand what the movie is going for. As I mentioned earlier, the first dream sequence could honestly be one of my favourite scenes of all time. The choice of using practical choreography to execute the insane dance scene between our three leads brought back a sense of fun and magic that movies have been lacking lately. Anya Taylor-Joy is without a doubt the star of this movie. She enters the scene with as iconic an introduction as possible. Despite the movie’s genuine attempt to vilify her at the end, she remains one of my favourite modern characters in recent memory. Every time she was on screen, the movie’s energy felt revived, she brings so much to the table and Anya Taylor-Joy delivers on every single detail. In fact, most of the 1960s scenes were entertaining until they started introducing the horror elements. It’s a shame this movie embraced the glitz and glamour of 1960’s fashion and music but failed to pay homage or be influenced by 1960’s horror. The movie doesn’t keep that same enthusiasm for the horror elements which ultimately make them feel boring. The horror feels too modern for a 1960’s setting but too outdated for a movie of today. It was genuinely bizarre.
Despite being subjective, the horror presented in ‘Last Night in Soho’ isn’t as much horror as it is jumpscares and insanely outdated visual effects. The movie does play into some genuinely unsettling psychological horror but they never utilize it as much as they should. They rely too much on cheap gimmicks which is very unfortunate because the actors do a fantastic job of looking horrified to death. To me, the scariest part of ‘Last Night In Soho’ is the inescapable trauma. After realizing how awful Sandy’s life had become due to the intense misogyny of the ’60s, Ellie has to live with the fact that whenever she sleeps she is going back to that place to relive those horrifying moments. That dread and inescapability really amped up the tension and did far more than any CGI effect did. The decrease in subtlety lessened the fear factor in massively disappointing ways.
The entire third act continues to baffle me even days after having seen the movie. The discussion of trauma in this movie is presented very well (until the third act) even if it’s not subtle. The second act does a great job showing the literal trauma connection between Sandy and Ellie. However, when it’s finally revealed that Sandy is the old lady that owns the building Ellie is staying in, there is this ominous overtone that paints her as an antagonist even though up till now she was clearly the victim. When it’s revealed that she, in fact, killed Jack, it’s not exactly clear what the movie wants you to feel. I felt particularly pleased to hear that. However, turning Sandy into a literal man-killer is where it gets problematic. Killing Jack makes sense because there was no other way of getting out of that situation. It was self-defense. Killing the other men and briefly making her the villain felt incredibly unnecessary. The confusing attempt at getting us to empathise with the men was just as horrible a decision, especially since Ellie denies them help and gives Sandy justification. In our eyes, Sandy was already portrayed as a tragic character with her death only being revealed as a misdirect at the very end. This reveal didn’t really do much for her character. In fact, it would’ve made more sense for Jack to still be alive, be brought to justice by Ellouise and have her fashion project be dedicated to Sandy. Her story would be out and the movie would effectively discuss nostalgia, trauma and misogyny in a far more meaningful way. Why would you briefly villainize Sandy if to redeem her and agree with her actions? Are we supposed to root for Sandy? Are we supposed to root for the fact that she murdered all those men? What is ‘Last Night in Soho’ exactly trying to say?
All in all, I wanted to love this movie, I love the parts it gets right and there are definitely a couple scenes I will be revisiting for a long time. That being said, while ‘Last Night in Soho’ does succeed in having a few stellar sequences, it ultimately crashes and burns down to a waste of potential. Despite having a genuinely unique concept, the movie fails in its execution. Even with a smashing soundtrack, great set design and great performances, nothing can quite save this movie from its baffling ending. However, because of it’s originality and creativity, I would still recommend watching it but prepare for disappointment in those last ten to fifteen minutes.
‘Last Night in Soho’ is still showing in select theatres as well as available for online purchase in select countries.