Kim Tsuyuki
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Warning: Spoilers for Last Night In Soho ahead!

Red, white, and blue neon lights consume Ellie Turner’s London apartment in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho. Wright directs a new kind of psychological horror movie, one that swings between the present and the past. Eloise Turner, played by Thomasin McKenzie, is a ’60s girl living in a modern world — the pure definition of being born in the wrong generation. She is an aspiring fashion designer; the film opens with Ellie dancing around her room in a newspaper dress she designed. She stops in front of the mirror and goes through variations of her designer name. The ghost of her mother shows up behind her, hinting at the terrifying elements to come. Her grandmother comes in to fill the viewer in on some trivial details, that her mother is dead by suicide and that Ellie is chasing the same dream that drove her mother to her death. However, Ellie could see and feel things her mother couldn’t, which is what is going to make her journey different . . . or is it?

Ellie is outcasted not only by her classmates, but by London itself. Once she arrives in London, she takes a cab ride with a creepy driver trying to hit on her. She tries to get out of the cab early, saying she has to stop at a shop. She watches the cab linger outside of the shop, and once her concentration breaks, the cab mysteriously disappears. This begs the question: was it Ellie’s imagination? Or was the cab really there? This air of paranoia persists as Ellie arrives at her dorm with her annoying roommate, Jocasta, played by Syvonne Karlsen (yes, that is her name, and the noise I let out was ungodly). Jocasta is a city girl who is obviously amused by Ellie’s country girl personality. She immediately makes Ellie feel out of place, a symptom of London life. Ellie mentions, not willingly, that her mother killed herself, and Jocasta tries to one-up her by saying her uncle committed suicide (what a b—tch). She eventually moves out of her dorm and into a perfect little vintage place. The landlady, Ms. Collins, played by the late Diana Rigg, says that the apartment has so many memories attached to it. . . .

While in the apartment, Ellie is transported back into the 1960s through her dreams. This is when the editing in the movie really starts to shine. Ellie is interposed with an aspiring singer named Sandie, played by the dazzling Anya Taylor-Joy, who entered a London nightclub. In Sandie’s reflection, we can see Ellie looking right back at her. She is living Sandie’s life. However, the dreams of this enigmatic nightlife soon turn into a nightmare. On night three, Ellie discovers the horrors Sandie had to endure. She met Jack, played by Matt Smith, who promised to make her into a star. What he failed to mention was that he was a pimp, and that was the price that had to be paid for Jack to manage Sandie. Sandie tries to run, but every route she takes to escape is just another horror of the business. Girls being taken advantage of, overworked, driven to drugs — there was no escape for Sandie. 

Night four is the height of the nightmares. Ellie refused to go to sleep, but they forced themselves onto her anyway. There’s a repetition of Sandie at a club; she dances, a man comes up to her, says, “That’s a lovely name” to whatever name she decides to go by, and eventually sleeps with her. The cycle is broken by one man. She jokingly says, “You must be a copper” when he says that she’s too good for her job. He tries to save her, but she’s too deep. The camera distorts with the kaleidoscope lights and the many mirrors as more men come up to her. When Ellie wakes up, she is haunted by the men who slept with Sandie. She is chased by their apparitions into the next night — the night of the Halloween party. 

Ellie is invited by John, the only person to show Ellie any kindness, and the two dress up as ghosts (how ironic). Jocasta gives the two drinks, and Ellie starts to see Sandie again. She runs out of the club in fear, and John follows her. Concerned for his friend, he asks if she is okay. She isn’t; the two kiss and eventually end up back at Ellie’s apartment. As they are making out on Ellie’s bed, she starts to see the reflection of Ellie and Jack on the ceiling. She becomes engrossed in the dream again, and, this time, Jack is on top of Sandie, yelling at her. He is asserting his claim over her, holding a knife above her face and screaming “you’re mine.” You can guess what happens next — Jack stabs Sandie and kills her. The scene plays out as John screams, trying to get through to a fear-stricken Ellie. The noise wakes the landlady up, and she shoos him out of the room. 

In the morning, Ellie decides to try and track down this old man she had been seeing, who she was convinced was Jack. She goes to the police, and the police don’t believe her. She takes matters into her own hands and becomes obsessed with trying to find Sandie’s murder in 1960s newspapers but is unsuccessful. She sees the ghosts of the men again and runs in a panic. Ellie is determined to avenge Sandie, and she follows her ghost into the bar she had been working at. She sees the old man sitting in the basement of the bar and he denies killing Sandie. She chases him out of the bar, where he gets hit by a car. The bar owner says that the old man’s name was named Lindsay, a retired police officer. He was the one man who tried to help Sandie out of her situation. 

Ellie decides to go back home and goes to tell the landlady that she is deciding to leave. Ms. Collins sits her down and makes her a cup of tea, telling her that some detectives came by asking about Sandie’s murder. It is slowly revealed that Ms. Collins is Sandie and that she didn’t actually die; she killed Jack. She killed every man she was forced to sleep with, implying that all of their bodies were hidden within the room. Ms. Collins poisoned Ellie’s tea, hoping to kill her so she doesn’t relay the information. She barely escapes up the stairs, as Ms. Collins chases her with a knife. Once she gets up to her apartment, the ghosts appear once more, but this time to help Ellie. When Ms. Collins enters the room, she is slapped by Jack’s ghost. The house becomes engulfed in flames as a cigarette fell during Ellie’s escape. Sirens are heard outside, and Ms. Collins holds the knife to her neck. Ellie stops her, trying to save her life, but it is all for naught as she sits in the burning room. The movie ends with Ellie showcasing her ‘60s-inspired dresses at a fashion show. She sees her mother in the mirror, along with Sandie, who blows her a kiss.

Revenge movies are becoming more and more popular, with A Promising Young Woman gaining critical acclaim last year. With the situation Sandie was in, she felt like she had no other choice, and, honestly, good for her. She was grasping onto the little agency she had left; she couldn’t break the cycle, but there was nothing saying that she wasn’t allowed to mess with it. Last Night in Soho tells the story of 1960s nightclubs, the true horror of the movie wasn’t the ghosts, but the men like Jack. Especially in stardom culture, men often take advantage of young women who aspire to become stars. They manipulate them, giving them no choice for their stardom. Many of them commit suicide to escape, but Sandie decides on revenge. 

Last Night in Soho was a hauntingly good time. The aesthetics of the film were impeccable. The 60s soundtrack was the backdrop to the entire film, giving a sense of a ‘60s soul in a modern world. The music also was constantly foreshadowing what’s to come next. The film was saturated with neon lights, almost suffocating you at times. The editing between Ellie and Sandie was chilling, slowly merging Ellie and Sandie into the same person. A visually delicious film with a gripping revenge story, Last Night in Soho reassures the audience that your fear of men is completely valid. You never know what lays on the underbelly of city life.

Featured Image Courtesy of Letterboxd.

Author

  • Kim Tsuyuki is a third-year English major with a minor in Film Studies. This is her first year working for the QC and is currently writing for the Arts & Entertainment section. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing video games, collecting stickers, and watching the same three movies (over and over, like chill out Kim). She’s kinda sad, but mostly hungry.

Kim Tsuyuki is a third-year English major with a minor in Film Studies. This is her first year working for the QC and is currently writing for the Arts & Entertainment section. When she isn’t working, she can be found playing video games, collecting stickers, and watching the same three movies (over and over, like chill out Kim). She’s kinda sad, but mostly hungry.

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