In Fabric (2018) Director: Peter Strickland Starring: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Fatma Mohamed, Hayley Squires, Leo Bill, Julian Barratt, Steve Oram, Ricahrd Bremmer .UK. 1h 58m
As much as totally fangirl for Strickland and was so eager to watch this movie dedicated to the tales of a haunted or cursed dress, I knew it wasn’t going to be the typical hollywood horror, I knew it was going to be bizarre and strange and hauntingly beautiful but I wasn’t quite expecting it to be just so chilling and yet wrapped up in the mundane… and yet it remains terrifying and mesmerizing.
Initially opening in some kind of retro Britain, a woman, a dated and uncanny valley advert is played for a department store, something you’d expect to find on a certain floor in Are You Being Served? but Mrs Slocombe’s Wet Pussy wont be found, instead the most desired item in Dentley and Sopers, is a deadly dress that comes in “Artery Red” and is sold by the victorian styled Miss Luckmore (Mohamed) from her dated department store.
There’s a strange set of tales ready to be absorbed by the audience in this strickland’s fantasy horror, his movies are often as puzzling as they are beautiful, but this one amps up both scales, it’s haunting not only be design but the curiosity really sucks everyone in, and layered on top are heavy tripping visuals, strange behavior and sick sense of the dark consumerism.
Shelia (Jean-Baptiste) plays a divorcee, she’s talked down to at work and struggles to relinquish her son into the doting arms of his new girlfriend but after finding a fate, she must have a new dress, unfortunately she’s picked the Christine of the dress world. An item that killed the model who wore it in the catalog and it’s never done causing anguish, torment and death.
While Sheila is the latest owner, it’s not just her life that is affected by the dress, there are a couple of other tales that are entwined within the cursed threads as the dress floats from owner to another, and everyone who comes into contact with it desires a tough of it’s macabre sense of humor.
The world that Strickland has conjured seems to be around the thatcher oppressive season, there’s a strange ethic in this version of blighty, a heavy corporate fist keeps everything in its place, Julian Baratte gives a staff member a stiff talking to and it seems almost absurd, but there’s a rhythm to it, if only it wasn’t so unnerving, but the scene isn’t a stand alone, the department store is a cauldron of rituals and high strangeness, it’s all too real and comfortably sits between horror and humor.
Along with Strickland’s uncanny eye of a world turned upside down on the inside, everything looks normal but works so differently, he sets the audience off with a throbbing and t(s)exual soundtrack, having worked with the likes of Broadcast in Berberian Sound Studio and Sliding Cat’s Eyes over The Duke of Burgundy he works with the aces, Tim Gane who’s fleshy synths are the perfect companion for this Are you Being Spooked?drama with a lash of Giallo.
Did the transaction validate your paradigm of consumerism? – Miss Luckmore
Fabric feels like a much needed connection between a host of horrors that see people, primarily women, fall victim to the world of fashion and high beauty standards. The fairytale pulp horror fiction plays out in everything from Powell and Pressburger Red Shoes (1948), later made much darker by the South Korean gory thriller in 2005. Later we have throbbing horrors such as Neon Demon (2016) and Exte (2007) and The Wig (2005) among others. To its credit In Fabric has a slightly more contemporary spin on the old fairytale, it’s not all about women, a man does get tangled up in the dress curse at one point, basically no one is safe.
The film is much more funnier than it sounds, Stickland is always happy to throw in a few funnies, some more obscure than the others, but you’ll probably not know if you should laugh or not as it’s hard to know what’s coming next in this fabulously strange movie.
Related: Berberian Sound Studio (2012), Duke of Burgundy (2024), Saint Maud (2019) Lists: The Alternative Society Spotlight: Strickland