“Last night I saw something in my dreams,” says the occasionally psychic and always naive fashion student Eloise. Did she have visions of ghosts or of disappointed moviegoers leaving the theater?
The trailers and posters for Last Night in Soho may trick potential audiences into believing that this ode to Soho, London in the swinging ‘60s might be as vibrant as mini-skirts, Twiggy and the music from those days.
Instead, writer/director Edgar Wright and co-screenwriter Krysty WilsonCairns (1917) have created a psychological thriller set in present day that also looks back 60 years through the delusions of an adolescent.
This isn’t a horror ﬁlm, per se, or at least not a good one. So, fans of that genre don’t get your hopes up.
Instead prepare yourself for a slightly ghoulish mystery whose saving graces are a visually stunning slightly campy recreation of a romanticized time and an earnest cast.
Meticulously and with an obvious love for the period and place, Wright assembles a stellar tech crew who can fulﬁll his fantasies. Their work is so attractive, vivid and nostalgic it feels like the 1960s sequences jumped off the cover of an old record album: Buildings, interiors and neon lights cast a spell because production designer Marcus Rowland (“Baby Driver,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) wants to take viewers down memory lane.
The music gyrates like go-go dancers on acid due to Steven Price’s (“Baby Driver”) perky musical score and a playlist that includes Petula Clark crooning “Downtown.”
Costume designer Odile DicksMireaux (“An Education”) gives the entire cast something smart to wear and her rendering of a salmon-pink sleeveless dress becomes a focal point. Nightclubs, city streets, countryside views and dark sinister rooms all appear entrancing because cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung (“Oldboy”) cap-
(Thomasin McKenzie, “Jojo Rabbit”) leaves her country home to attend the prestigious London College of Fashion. She is wide-eyed and eager to become a clothing designer. She wears her innocence on her sleeve and her meangirl bully of a roommate Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen) ridicules her unmercifully.
The country mouse flees student lar Café De Paris nightclub. She stumbles into the very handsome and debonair Jack (Matt Smith, “The Crown”), who claims to be a talent manager with connections. She has stardom in mind, he sees her more as a private dancer, the kind older men desire.
Wright has a pretty typical premise for a thriller. It’s the kind of twin storyline
and two-world view that M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense,” “Old”) churns out in his sleep. For Wright, whose past credits include the whacky cult-classic comedy horror ﬁlm “Shaun of the Dead” and the timelessly contemporary “Baby Driver,” he’s stepping into a new territory – stylish, serious thrillers. He gets and “A” for style, a “D+” for his less than compelling whodunit skills.
Eloise and Sandie have their issues and demons, but none are shocking enough to scare the bejesus out of anyone. Yes, the footage features horror elements (stabbings, bloodletting, apparitions), but none of the aberrations are grotesque enough to give audiences nightmares. Scenes of nudity, sex and violence are peppered in but don’t tip the scale much.
As Eloise gets caught up in her delusions and the ﬁlm grinds to an ending with revelations, clariﬁcations and twists in overabundance, there isn’t a payoff that warrants 116 minutes of anyone’s time (editor Paul Machliss, “Baby Driver”). That’s especially true for genre fans who like their horror in jolts (“A Quiet Place Part II”) or swathed in macabre antics (“Titane”). HALF-STEPPING
Wright needed to make this project either really horriﬁc or really campy. Halfstepping is not a viable option. Adding more ghostly images, quickening the pace and swelling the volume of the musical soundtrack don’t do the trick.
Also, part of the problem is that Eloise is a wishy-washy character for far too long: “I wish I was like everyone else.” For the ﬁrst half-hour her only exciting decision is bleaching her hair blonde.
Also, her relationship with fellow student John (Michael Ajao, “Attack the Block”) seems like a secondary, add-on subplot. As a male character, John is so emasculated you feel as sorry for him and as you do for the actor who got the ungrateful role.
Some viewers will come to the justiﬁable conclusion that the most compelling storyline concerns Sandie and the charmingly sinister Jack. If this ﬁlm had skipped the whole Eloise narrative and her generation and instead centered itself around the couple’s vintage era, the movie might be more fun to watch.
Sometimes two stories are better than one. In this case. No.
In theaters starting October 29th.