Edgar Wright came out of the gates with a great movie. Shaun of the Dead really wowed me. It made me excited to see what would come next from him. Time has gone on. Wright has made more films. I’ve enjoyed them all to some degree, but none has been as good as Shaun of the Dead. His latest film, Last Night in Soho, did not break that streak.
I was interested enough in Last Night in Soho to go see it in theaters, and found myself for the film time in my life the only person in the theater. For an atmospheric horror film, that can feel a little odd. The sound effects in the movie did have me looking around me a couple times, unsure if it was a sound from the film or from somebody walking into the theater. Ultimately, I would say it is a pretty good movie. I enjoyed Last Night in Soho. It also just makes it clear to me that Wright’s strengths have remained the same, but weaknesses have also appeared as well.
Wright’s first three notable feature films, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, are all genre spoofs. They mix comedy with a more serious drama. There’s a zombie comedy, a cop action comedy, and a sci-fi comedy. There’s a lot of blood, but also a lot of laughs. There is also, clearly, an obvious knowledge base in the source material from Wright.
I’ve heard many interviews with Wright, and the guy is like an encyclopedia of film. He’s seen a ton of movies and can speak about them with intelligence and insight. What I have realized now is that, even though he no longer does spoof films, Wright primarily spends his time in conversation with films that have come previously.
This is, however, Wright’s strong suit. It’s clear in Last Night in Soho. The soundtrack is en pointe. The music cues are clever. He’s referencing old horror movies and creating distinct homages to films from the past. There were a lot of moments where the visuals of the movie really struck me, or he would create a quick set piece that grabbed me. These were the moments of Last Night in Soho I really enjoyed.
With a genre spoof, most of the success of a film comes from this conversation. Shaun of the Dead is built on riffing on zombie movies. Wright nails that, though he also does well with some of the storytelling and the emotional moments. Those moments mean less, though. They can slip through the cracks. What people want is a clever twist on a zombie movie, and he delivered. Same with Hot Fuzz. It nails the buddy cop action film clichés. It feels like one of those movies while also lampooning them.
There is no lampooning in Last Night in Soho, though. It’s a straightforward horror movie. Wright is less successful when he’s just making his own film. The story of Last Night in Soho is the weakest part. Sometimes I would drift while watching it. Then, some image would grab me. Wright would visually compel me, but the story would remain less gripping.
Wright doing his own thing and creating something out of whole cloth is not his strength. What he excels at is creating spoofs, homages, and referencing existing pop culture. This is what made Shaun of the Dead great. It’s what all the best parts of Last Night in Soho consist of. He just doesn’t do as much of that these days, and it’s going to make him hard to reach the same highs again.