Whenever Edgar Wright makes a film, there is always interest from film aficionados. His latest film sees the filmmaker make a dark and intense horror film.
Eloise ‘Ellie’ Taylor (Thomas McKenzie) moves to London after being accepted by the London College of Fashion. Despite Ellie dreaming of becoming a fashion designer, she struggles to adapt to life in Halls and moves to a Bedsit in Soho. At night she develops a psychic connection to Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy), a confident singer in the 1960s. But the journeys to the ’60s end up taking a dark turn.
Wright is no stranger to the horror genre. Shaun of the Dead was a horror comedy and Hot Fuzz and The World’s End had horror elements. Nor is he a stranger to have some pathos in his films – like the reveal in The World’s End that the main character had tried to commit suicide. Last Night in Soho marked Wright’s first seriously toned horror, and he showed he had no problem stepping out of his comfort zone.
Last Night in Soho was a perfect cocktail of acting, writing, and direction and was a mainstream horror with a lot of substance. It was a horror film about sexualization, sexual abuse, and mental health. There has been a rise of #MeToo influenced films, and Last Night in Soho is one of them.
The #MeToo elements mainly come from Sandy’s half of the story. She’s an aspiring singer who was confident to go into one of the biggest clubs and states she wants to perform. However, Sandy was being harassed by older men in the club, and it gets worse for her as the film progressed. She was made to perform as a backup dancer in a highly sexualized show, and she was made to impress men to help advance her career. A horrific sequence was when Ellie was backstage and saw the backup dancers perform sex acts or take heroin to dull their pain. It pulled back the glamorous curtain.
Even in the present day, Ellie suffered at the hands of sexism. She was on the receiving end of inappropriate comments when she arrived in London and saw leaflets for prostitutes in a phone box. Ellie saw one of the venues Sandy performed in had turned into a massage parlor.
Ellie and Sandy’s experiences in London play into another theme of the film: there was a lot of sleaze underneath London’s flashy facade. Both go to London with high hopes and discover that the city’s bright lights are not what they seem. Ellie’s story does play like an inversion of the old British horror trope that the countryside is scary. Ellie moves from a lovely little house in Cornwall to the horrors of the British capital.
Mental health was also a significant theme of the film. Early in the movie, it was stated that Ellie and her mother had issues with mental health. Ellie’s mum committed suicide, and Ellie sometimes sees her in the mirror. Ellie struggled and was trapped in a waking nightmare. Many characters ask if she’s okay and tell her it’s okay to ask for help. It was easy to feel for Ellie and her struggles because she’s a nice girl who can’t escape the haunting.
Ellie’s struggles to adapt to uni life felt believable. She’s a quiet girl from the countryside who’s made to live with a load of overprivileged people who want to party. It was hard for her to acclimate, and she had few interactions with her fellow students. Her only friend at university was John (Michael Ajao). Synnøve Karlsen deserves a lot of praise for her role as Ellie’s roommate, Jocasta, because she was so repulsive. She was a vain and callous posh girl who deserved an unpleasant death.
Wright made a tremendous and thoughtful genre film. and shows he can adapt by making a serious female-centric film.