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Edgar Wright discusses the "amazing" potential of the horror genre

With frenetic whizz, finessed creativity and a self-evident passion for the history of cinema, Edgar Wright has established himself as a pioneer of modern filmmaking thanks to such contemporary genre classics as the horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead to the unique visual awe of the comic-book movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. 

Consistently looking for ways to innovate and inspire, Wright has little interest in settling for cinematic cliches, with his dedication to the craft leading the director to industry prominence, often conferring with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino about his latest cinematic endeavours. No matter the project, however, the horror genre has always held a considerable influence over Wright’s storytelling, consistently making an appearance in some aspect throughout his filmography.

Evident in the graphic violence of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the most obvious example of this is in his most recent genre flick, Last Night in Soho whose roots were deeply embedded in horror. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomasin McKenzie and Matt Smith, Wright’s latest follows a young fashion student who moves into a sinister apartment in Soho, London, that allows her to travel back in time to the 1960s during the night. 

Shortly before the release of the film in 2021, Wright sat down with The Talks to discuss how the genre has had an effect on his career, stating, “I think the thing is within the genre, there are so many different kinds of tones and semitones, especially when you start crossing genres, it becomes a bit like alchemy”. 

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Explaining how each film of the genre has “slightly different sensibilities,” the director highlights how Shaun of the Dead differs from American Werewolf in London and Evil Dead 2, despite them sharing a genre. Continuing in this line of exploration, he adds, “Within the horror genre itself, you know, some people would say that Ingmar Bergman’s Persona is a horror film, all the way through to Eight Legged Freaks. That’s what I think is amazing about this genre, or any film genre! It’s so expansive, you can tell any story within it”. 

Bathing in the joy of getting scared through fictional cinema, Wright expresses jealousy at the fact that his mother claims to have seen a ghost, remaining sceptical about the presence of such spirits in reality. Last Night in Soho is the only one of the director’s films to deal with the horror of ghosts, ghouls and other horror genre familiarities, with Wright preferring guts and gore for his other flicks. 

Discussing how he goes about making a horror film, he further explains, “The thing about making a horror film or even just a psychological thriller, is you have to find a subject that scares you or is disturbing to you. So with Last Night in Soho, it was more the tragic aspects that interested me, the thing about lives cut short or people who died too young”. 

Continuing, he further explains, “Lives derailed. I find those things unspeakably sad. There’s also moments of sleep paralysis, and that’s something that certainly scares me. Any kind of invasion into your safest place is a terrible thing!”.