A lonely woman (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), recently separated from her husband, visits a bewitching London department store in search of a dress that will transform her life. She's fitted with a perfectly flattering, artery-red gown - which, in time, will come to unleash a malevolent curse and unstoppable evil, threatening everyone who comes into its path.
‘In Fabric’ is the sort of film that douses your brain in lighter fluid and throws a match on it. Like all good art, the director Peter Strickland has his eyes set on his audience and has no interest in trying to appease anyone that won’t get it. It very much feels like a natural step in an artistic conversation that is happening within British cinema. If you are fond of Jim Hosking or Ben Wheatley this is definitely a must see.
You can see a whole chunk of influences on screen. The strange camp of Roger Corman, the pacing of Dario Argento, the playful cinematography of Karl Freund and shots straight from the Hitchcock playbook. But with a dreamlike logic, it is twisted and wrong. As if you're trying to fit a USB into an unfamiliar machine, till you release that it's you that needs to be inserted upside down.
The score by Cavern of Antimatter is completely superb. It is on par with Jóhann Jóhannsson’s 'Mandy' score, so if you are a fan of deep foreboding synths it is sure to be one to pick up for the decks.
The film is split over two narratives. One has an effect on the other so there is some continuity between theme and characters. These shared elements not only serve to enhance a sense of foreboding but give you a worrying insight into the world the film takes place in. The first story with a completely engrossing
Marianne Jean-Baptiste takes up the lion's share of the running time. You certainly do become swept away in the heartbreaking kitchen sink drama that pushes the narrative forward and is worthy on its own merits.
If you are wondering how they manage to get a film about a killer dress up to feature length, the answer is: it is not really about the dress and more what the dress symbolises. Work, consumerism, meetings with middle management, boredom are all taken worryingly seriously. Only a few locations are seen through the film and all shot very close up. It creates a stifling atmosphere but also serves to demonstrate the isolation that is forced upon the characters. All of them are isolated from those around them as well as by work and consumerism.
It certainly leans more to the comedy than horror and is packed with laughs. Rather than mine the premise for laughs it uses the atmosphere and the characters.
Often it’s disturbing precisely because it is funny and vice versa. There are some nice moments of playing with what the audience expects to happen but rather than stick to any tropes, it is happy enough to just plough its own decidedly weird furrow.
This film is certainly not for all, it is completely bonkers and works within a logic set to its own tune. If you are looking for a straight-up horror, it's not going to scratch that itch either. But those willing to follow the threads it dangles are not going to be disappointed.