Written and Directed by: Peter Strickland
Starring: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Fatma Mohamed, Gwendoline Christie
In Fabric is a twisted, highly stylized horror/dark comedy film. It follows a cursed dress’ journey as it leaves a department store and travels from person to person, wreaking havoc at every turn. Director Peter Strickland‘s love of 1970’s and 80s exploitation films is no secret. His nuanced style reads like a highly abstract study of color, light and texture. I appreciate his attention to small details, such as the title sequences and soundtrack. The pops of red used throughout the film, whether from dresses, nail color, lipstick or blood is the same oversaturated color. Which creates surrealist dream-like state with its vibrancy.
Highly derivative, In Fabric takes hugely from the Italian Giallo genre, especially Argento’s Suspiria. Strickland has stated that this was unintentional as he was initially inspired by the haunting of clothes through the lingering of other people’s bodily secretions and the fact that buying second hand clothes taps into the idea of clothes that have survived through many other people’s lives. He has also said the highly tactile experience of old school department stores, in his youth, and their thin papered, extremely glossy catalogs were a huge inspiration for this work.
The store the dress is initially purchased from has a hypnotic power over people. This power is portrayed in its advertisements, the strange rituals its sales people practice and the deranged way customers stream through shrieking, not dissimilar from black Friday shoppers. Although many elements seem exaggerated to the point of absurdity, the stilted interactions between Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and the salesperson Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) are funny because the forcefulness and awkwardness of retail exchange is very real.
Luckmoore serves as the film’s Madame Blanche, a malevolent female spirit. Somehow this character takes the trope to the next level and if possible is even more mysterious and bizarre. Speaking indecipherable lines such as “Did the transaction validate your paradigm of consumerism?” and “The hesitation in your voice, soon to be an echo in the recess in the spheres of retail,” she serves as a scathing satire of retail exchange while also offering levity.
Overall, I liked the modern take on the Giallo genre, a welcome mix of horror, comedy and shock eroticism. I especially liked the way Strickland made the genre his own adding mysticism and drawing from British humour and culture. The structuring of the film, however, made it a difficult watch and left me uncertain through much of its content.
– Review by Jessie Zumeta
Have you seen IN FABRIC? Well, what did you think?