For die-hards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one can leave you miserable. Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a highly scientific and mostly spoiler-free system for rating new horror movies, comparing them with classics along a 10-point scale. And because not everyone is frightened by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or simply can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each movie’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore.
Last Night in Soho is the newest film from Edgar Wright—not a name we typically associate with horror. But this is far from a typical movie from the writer-director of Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Baby Driver. It’s light on laughs and romance, and chock-full of faceless ghosts, blood-stained knives, and lots and lots and lots of screeching. Will the movie have you letting out frightened shrieks alongside our hero, fish-out-of-water fashion student Ellie Turner (Thomasin McKenzie)? Or will it mostly entrance you with 1960s dream girl Anya Taylor-Joy’s surprisingly sultry singing and stylish frocks? Time to find out.
Ellie moves to London in the hopes of making it big as a fashion designer, but she quickly finds that she doesn’t fit in with the more privileged girls who make up her class. She moves out of her tiny dorm room and into the attic of a house in the Soho neighborhood, rented to her by an old woman, Ms. Collins. At first, Ellie is comforted by having a space all to herself—but quickly things turn strange, as her dreams about the beautiful aspiring singer Sandy (Taylor-Joy) become more and more disturbing. You might come to dread these nightmares—or the way that they begin to bleed into Ellie’s waking life—but this isn’t a movie that bombards you with constant jump scares.
There are no guts, but there’s plenty of blood. Last Night in Soho treats us to stabbed chests, slashed throats, and at least one body hit by a car, so expect a decent amount of carnage. Still, a lot of the gore is only shown within the shadows, and the film rarely lingers upon the sight. In other words, you’re more likely to see a red stain than the actual gushing wound.
Ellie’s dreams become nightmares, and she can’t shake them when she’s awake. In one corner, there’s Sandy, suffocating under an abusive man’s grasp. In another, there’s a ghastly figure with an inhuman face, leering at Ellie. The fact that these images escape Ellie’s unconscious and follow her wherever she goes creates an unsettling atmosphere that only grows more intense as the film races toward its climax. Last Night in Soho probably won’t give you nightmares like Ellie’s—almost nothing is left unexplained, which should help leave your mind a little more at ease. But this is a movie about ghosts, and if you’re afraid of those, some of its images may still haunt you after it’s over.
Last Night in Soho starts out stylish, enamored of a bygone era that Ellie romanticizes. But buried deep within the grooves of 1960s girl-group vinyls, and pulsing beneath the sunny surface of those swing nights and dance clubs, is a seedy underbelly marked by sexism, revenge, and a growing trail of dead. It’s the uncomfortable truths that Ellie reckons with that ultimately comprise the movie’s greatest scares, not its handful of slasher-esque sequences or its hero’s growing psychosis.