Edgar Wright Is Scared of His Own Horror Film

"There are very dark themes in this movie that compel, disturb and haunt me to this day," he says of 'Last Night in Soho'
Edgar Wright Is Scared of His Own Horror Film
British director and screenwriter Edgar Wright is best known for his action-comedies like Baby Driver and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, so the new psychological thriller Last Night in Soho marks a huge departure for him.

Last Night in Soho follows an aspiring fashion designer, Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), who is mysteriously transported to the 1960s, where she encounters dazzling wannabe singer Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). However, the '60s glamour and neon-hued dreams of the past start to fade as Eloise realizes that there is something much darker lurking.

Wright came up with the film's concept about a decade ago, and finally felt it was the right time to make it. His big inspiration was his obsession with the '60s that started very young because of his parents' record collection. Speaking to Exclaim! over Zoom, he says, "They had a box of records that was only '60s records and they seemed to stop dead when my brother was born. It seemed like they bought no '70s records — they just had like a box of '60s records, which they didn't really seem to listen to anymore. And I did, from the age of six."

He continues, "I was born in 1974, so having this ongoing nostalgia and time-travel fantasy about going back to the '60s, I used to think about it a lot. I used to check myself and wonder, 'Why am I thinking so much about traveling back in time?' Then you sort of have to wonder whether nostalgia itself is a failure to deal with the present day. Are you thinking so much about the past because you can't deal with the modern world? That was the thing that started to kind of make me think about the danger of romanticizing the past. That started to kind of inform the idea of going back in time, but something that's essentially a glamorous, alluring dream itself turns into a nightmare."

He notes some key differences that separate Last Night in Soho from other well-known time-travel flicks: "[In] Back to the Future, Marty McFly can change the outcome of the modern day. But in this movie, Thomasin McKenzie is powerless to prevent future events. And that, to me, is nightmare stuff."

Wright believes that the key to making a powerful psychological thriller or horror stems from internal fears, as it has to be something that disturbs you to your core. "I think you have to be scared by the subject matter, or scared to make the movie, which I was — which was probably one of the reasons it took me 10 years," he says of the film's slow genesis. "Because, I think if you're making a psychological thriller or a horror film and nothing about it fazes you, it's probably going to end up being quite a complacent movie. So there are very dark themes in this movie that compel, disturb and haunt me to this day. I think that's the key to it: it has to be about something that scares you."

One of the biggest trademarks of Wright's films is his stellar soundtracks. In Last Night in Soho, the music is almost like a central character, seamlessly transporting the audience between the '60s and the modern day. According to Wright, assembling this film's soundtrack was a dream come true.

"A big part of the soundtrack is the female singers of that period … of the mid-'60s," he says. "There were so many amazing British singers: Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, Petula Clark, Sandie Shaw. I was very aware that they're always bittersweet; they always came with these big emotive ballads, but they're always stained with tears. It says something about the tone of them. Even something like [Clark's chart-topping 1964 single] 'Downtown' — it's got a bit of a melancholic edge to it. So that is something that I really wanted … to have those songs in the movie."

Wright describes the songs like a time machine that sends Eloise back to the '60s, and he laughs as he draws parallels to when he listened to his parents' record collection and it would take him back to a time before he was born.

The film brings in score elements that put a spin on upbeat song placements, with an unnerving sound that fits the darker scenes of the movie. For this, Wright credits composer Steven Price. He cites Sandie Shaw's "Puppet on a String" as a key music moment in Last Night in Soho. "It's in a scene where Anya Taylor-Joy is a showgirl, but is obviously not enjoying herself whatsoever," he says. "The reason I chose that song is because it was Sandie Shaw's biggest hit, but she hated that song. She sort of did the song under duress, and then it became her biggest hit, but she didn't like it because she thought the lyrics were sexist drivel. So I always thought that was interesting it's this singer's biggest hit and she hates it. And I thought that's exactly the song for that bit where you see Anya is doing something under duress."

He's also excited at the inclusion of the Graham Bond Organization's live cover of the classic spiritual "Wade in the Water," which plays during a big dance number.

"I never get tired of listening to that," he enthuses. "And that coupled with the scene, it's like I knew that song for years. That would be the kind of song where I would hear the song, and I'd be able to visualize the scene in my head. So it's almost like kind of like a movie version of synesthesia. You know, you sort of hear the song and you can kind of see it. For that to actually exist as a scene is quite a powerful experience — for me anyway."