Edgar Wright's Last Night in Soho 'a familiar ghost story without a lacklustre pay-off'

Last Night In Soho: Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie and Thomasin McKenzie as Ellie
Damon Smith

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (18, 117 mins) Horror/Thriller/Romance. Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Dame Diana Rigg, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, Synnove Karlsen, Michael Ajao, Rita Tushingham. Director: Edgar Wright.

Released: October 29

A SHRINKING violet with a penchant for Dusty Springfield gets a terrifying glimpse of the sordid desires of 1960s London in director Edgar Wright's time-travelling horror thriller, which leaves us wishin' and hopin' for originality the longer it drags on.

Structured as a murder mystery that repeatedly blurs present and past, Last Night In Soho conceals its ho-hum narrative behind layers of dazzling production and costume design and the luridly lit cinematography of Chung Chung-hoon.

He works closely with Wright to construct intricately choreographed sequences festooned with mirrored reflections, which allow lead actresses Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy to seemingly inhabit the same environment, even though their tortured characters exist in timeframes more than 50 years apart.

The director's gift for enlivening scenes with canny soundtrack selections (the film's title references a 1968 track by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich) includes an inspired use of Cilla Black's You're My World.

The script co-written by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns sidesteps logistics – could a teenager feasibly cover the rent of a central London bedsit and the associated living costs from late-night bar work? – to engineer mild spectral scares.

Dame Diana Rigg delivers her final screen performance as an eccentric landlady while Terence Stamp merrily chews scenery as the tangled connective tissue between the film's blood-soaked timeframes.

Painfully shy teenager Eloise Turner (McKenzie) inherited her love of swinging 1960s fashion and vinyl from her mentally ill mother, who harboured dreams of designing couture in London before she took her own life.

Eloise's parent also bequeathed her daughter another precious gift: psychic sensitivity to phantoms of the past.

The aspiring designer is accepted into London College of Fashion and she bids farewell to her fretful grandmother Peggy (Rita Tushingham) in Redruth to travel to the bustling capital.

Snooty, attention-grabbing roommate Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen) is less than welcoming at the halls of residence. Consequently, Eloise takes up lodgings in the musty Fitzrovia attic of Miss Collins (Diana Rigg) where the student experiences unsettling visions of aspiring singer Sandie (Taylor-Joy) and menacing admirer Jack (Matt Smith), who meet in 1965 London in the glittering surroundings of the Cafe de Paris.

Timelines become dangerously blurred as Eloise inhabits Sandie's body by night and dyes her hair blonde to take on the chanteuse's striking appearance by day.

Last Night In Soho becomes increasingly laboured as Eloise joins forces with kind classmate John (Michael Ajao) to unravel Sandie's grim fate and repair her fracturing sanity.

Strip away the nostalgic styling and Wright's film is a familiar ghost story without a lacklustre pay-off.

McKenzie and Taylor-Joy are well-matched heroines at the mercy of plot mechanics, the latter teasing the underlying menace with her haunting cover version of Petula Clark's Downtown.

Bright lights, big city, bigger disappointment.

Rating: 2/5

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