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Edgar Wright‘s Last Night in Soho plays better after watching the bonus features in its home video release. This movie is more of a coming-of-age drama than a horror film and I can see this work easily fitting into the same universe as Disney’s live-action Cruella. This work’s emphasis on fashion is key to my theory.
Even thoughts of Suspiria come to mind because of the colour palette and catapulting of Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) to an era not everyone knows. She somehow manifests, if not dreams, of 60s London. Instead of appearing in her own corporeal form, she’s in the body of her singer idol, Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy). The two experience the seedier side of Soho district, hence the title. The glamour of the era and the music is as delightful and sinister as Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge–but minus Christian’s perspective of All You Need Is Love and saving the starlet from her demons.
Matt Smith is terrific as Jack, a shifty bloke prowling at entertainment halls and pretending he’s a talent agent. He’s a pimp, and he has eyes on Sandy. But we don’t see her as a wolf in sheep’s clothing; after she realises what’s going on, the tables are turned. The featurettes in the home video release give viewers a sense of what Edgar Wright had in mind when planning this film, and they also explain how all the special effects are done—especially those tough looks into the mirror darkly. Or in this film’s case, about parallel lives.
The shifts in perspective are daunting. Blink, and the tale is back in the present. Elle is studying at the London College of Fashion and she’s often getting confused about where she truly belongs. Her enamour of the past seems to hold her back. The difference isn’t always clear, but we learn about what she’s facing on a psychological level. It revels in the etheric nature of what this film means. It’s essentially a ghost story. The hints are there. Elle sees the spectre of her mother on reflective surfaces, and she’s one herself when looking at the life of Sandy as it plays out. A VFX test shot from the bonus material is very telling. She offers up the scares in the more traditional paranormal way.
When mirrors are nearly everywhere, I can’t help but wonder if they are portals. All these reflections are searching for the right host–a lost girl rather than a boy–to pounce!
4 Stars out of 5