Last Night in Soho Sings and Dances Beautifully Until it Stumbles

I went into the theater to see Last Night in Soho with high hopes; Edgar Wright has had a hand in some of my favorite movies, and although I hadn’t seen his take on more traditional horror, I was excited to see what he did with the genre. 

Adding to my excitement was the promise of seeing Anya Taylor Joy (The Witch, The New Mutants) return to the big screen after her work in Queen’s Gambit last year.

Last Night in Soho is a movie about a young aspiring fashion designer in the same way that Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is about an aspiring young ballerina. 

Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), the aforementioned fashion designer, struggles to fit in with her fellow students after being accepted into the London College of Fashion and moving from her rural home to London. 

Eloise also seems to have some manner of psychic sensitivity; we learn this in the very first scene when we see her deceased mother in her mirror, though the specifics of Eloise’s sensitivity are never thoroughly explained. 

To get away from some of her judgmental classmates, Ellie rents a room off-campus from an elderly woman and quickly falls into visions of Sandy (Anya Taylor Joy), an aspiring singer who lived in Ellie’s new apartment back in the ’60s. 

Ellie’s life and mental state soon stars to spiral as her visions of Sandy begin to tell the dark story of a young woman tricked into prostitution and denied her dreams of singing on stage. The visions are bleeding into Ellies waking life and for a while, the movie is an unsettling ride of sounds and color that lived up to my hopes for an Edgar Wright-led horror movie. 

Where the movie really shines is its audio production; Wright’s previous work with Scott Pilgrim and Baby Driver make the director’s love for music obvious, and that same love is present throughout this film. 

Unfortunately, I left this movie with a bad taste in my mouth.

I’m no stranger to horror movies, and that means I know and expect most of them to ruin themselves in the third act, but I dared to hope it wouldn’t be true for this film. 

Leading up to the big “twist” that every movie in this genre thinks is required of it because of M. Night Shyamalan’s work in the late ’90s, I was in love with this film. Like Get Out’s take on both overt and systemic racism, Last Night in Soho was on track to being a brilliant horror movie that illustrated the horror of a young woman dreaming of show business who is quickly used and abused for her body. In a way, I suppose the twist doesn’t take that away from the movie at large, but (and here are the big spoilers) the movie takes a turn and the victim that we have followed throughout the film becomes the villain, or at least a villain, and the thread I had followed throughout the first two acts was lost. The equivalent would be if Get Out played through most of the plot as is, and then in the last few scenes, we learned the main character had actually been captured by the white family on purpose because he wanted to kill them. 

This movie is still worth a watch, and the experience in the theater with surround sound was a great time. Edgar Wright continues his interesting choices with music and sound and ultimately succeeds. 

The twist ending, however, makes the overall movie a worse film than the one I was led to believe I was watching. I think if this movie had stayed true to its theme instead of turning itself upside down, we would all be having a very different conversation about the lives of young women in entertainment and the nightmare world that Last Night in Soho portrayed. 

Overall, this movie is still worthy of that conversation. It is worth your time and attention if you enjoy Wright’s previous work or movies with social commentary like Get Out, Black Swan, and Us. I can’t help but lament how good this movie almost was, but at the same time, I also question whether Edgar Wright was the right person to tell that story in the first place. Should he return to horror any time soon, I hope Wright finds another story worth telling, and I hope that story survives to the end credits.

Austin Weiford spends too much time thinking about movies and tv shows. You can find him on Twitter, read more of his writing, or listen to him ruin your favorite movies on his podcast, Better Movie Club.

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