“London can be a lot.”
Story: Eloise is a young and talented girl who’s just been accepted into a fashion school in London. She’s also a huge fan of all things “Swingin’ Sixties”, and has an ability to see spirits – like her deceased mother – in reflective objects. So when Eloise gets to London, is it any wonder she starts seeing the spirit of Sandie, another young, talented girl? But there’s a dark shadow over Sandie, and Eloise is getting way too connected…
Genre I’d put it in: Trippy Time Travel Terror
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Original, though you may notice hints of Audrey Rose, Midnight in Paris, The Sixth Sense, and other films that deal with living alternate lives.
Gotta say: Gotta love Edgar Wright. His films take tropes I thought I knew backwards and forwards, and manages to give ’em a little spin I never thought I needed. Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver, and of course his crazypants TV series Spaced; they all have a touch of newness about them, even in genres we’ve seen dozens of times before. The same can be said of Soho, a ghostly, time-travely, murdery mystery set both in modern times and in the “Swingin’ Sixties”. Wright takes a story of how a newcomer to London feels out-of-water, and combines it with another tale of a newcomer to London, adds in the ability to see spirits from the past…and hits frappé. And viewers get a frothy, fun look at being a twenty-something in London, while getting chills from the sinister actions Eloise becomes an unwitting party to. So basically, it’s everything you’d want in a delicious diversion, minus the brain freeze.
Combining the ingenue looks of Thomasin McKenzie’s Eloise with the mysterious chanteuse of Anya Taylor-Joy’s Sandie, Soho looks behind the shine of London to its seedy underbelly through the eyes of two women desperate to make it big. Both meet individuals that seem nice at first, but become toxic. The thing that ties them together is Eloise’s ability to see the past, and in this instance, become physically attached to it. And at first, it’s Eloise’s dream come true; she wakes up the next day and hustles to her school to jot down all the design ideas she’d seen the night before. Of course, as this is a “psychological horror”, it’s not all great ideas and groovy music, and soon Eloise finds herself desperate to stop her nightly trips. I can’t say I blame her.
Taylor-Joy and McKenzie do a lovely job of pulling focus to their respective storylines. I’d like to say more, but spoilers darling. Take it from me though, they deliver incredible, layered performances. Smith does smarmy so incredibly well. I felt I needed all the Purell every time his scuzzy pubcrawler Jack came onscreen. Gotta love a popular performer that takes chances, and this character is far removed from Philip or The Doctor. More crazy chances, Smith, if you please. And my beloved Terrence Stamp is wonderful as always as a mysterious man Eloise encounters again, and again… Oh! And lets not forget the most adorable cinnamon-roll of a character I’ve seen in a while; Michael Ajao’s John, Eloise’s fellow fashion student, BFF, and all-around wonderful dude. Ajao plays John with equal parts sweetness and strength of character. (Ajao isn’t listed on Soho‘s IMDb though; get on that, IMDb!)
The combination of low-key visual and live-action FX are very effective, slowly gaining traction in the real world as Eloise’s visions become stronger. The horror is here in spades, but think of Soho as more of a mystery than a hard-core spookfest, that becomes more eerie as the story progresses. The use of pop hits of the 60s, 21st century tunes, and 60s originals that became huge hits in the late 20th century, are used to build suspense, along with fantastic set design and costuming in both eras Eloise “lives in”. Things blend, shift, combine, and it’s easy to see how it’s more difficult for Eloise to try to figure out what’s happened, or happening. Add it whipsmart editing that cuts from scene to scene – sometimes moment to moment – in a dizzying fashion that reminds me of suspense films of the sixties. So basically this is the Grand Guignol film Malignant wishes it had been. Yeah I said it.
As I’ve promised to leave talk of the final third of the film out of this review, all I’ll say is that I’d had several ideas of how Soho was going to go while watching the film, and was wrong each time. But I was super stoked at how things came together, and loved how Wright pulled all the plot threads together for one hell of a climax. This may not be part of his wonderful Cornetto trilogy, but I’m game for adding this to my list of rewatchable films.
#Protip: Soho was the final film for both Dame Diana Rigg and Margaret Nolan, who both passed away last year. RIP, you brilliant ladies.