IN FABRIC – *****

Directed by Peter Strickland. Starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Gwendoline Christie, Fatma Mohammed. Horror, UK, cert 18.

In cinemas and On Demand 28th June from Curzon Artificial Eye.


With his fourth feature, writer and director Peter Strickland delves fully into the supernatural with the tale of a possibly haunted, possibly cursed red dress. As premises go it may seem pretty thin, but through Strickland's Giallo infused lens the viewer is treated to a tale that includes but is not limited to a coven of witches/saleswomen, angry washing machines and January sales on the constant verge of tipping into full-on riots. There's also a slight nod to Tudor cosplaying and the wildest treatment of a mannequin you are likely to see for some time.


Marianne Jean-Baptiste plays Sheila, a recently divorced bank teller trying to get back into the dating scene. Coming across a newly opened and seemingly large department store, with a staff who can safely be described as otherworldly, she takes a chance on a red dress going cheap in the seasonal sale. Hoping it will aid her in her romantic endeavours it instead unfurls into a supernatural maelstrom with the dress mysteriously leaving a trail of destruction and madness in its wake.


Strickland has always made his love of Euro genre cinema front and centre. At times In Fabric feels like the kind of film that would have been worked on in his own Berberian Sound Studio by the put upon Gilderoy. The tactility of his films, especially here, borders on the fetishistic; whether it is the camera lingering over the material of the dress splayed on a store counter or floating malevolently over its victims and the look, feel and sound of vintage catalogue pages being turned in an investigative manner or displayed onscreen in dizzying montage. Shots of rotting food and sinister mannequins also serve as visual callbacks to his previous two films as well as a sly, wordless cameo from one of his former stars in a pivotal role.


However proudly Strickland wears his influences upon his sleeve the film never feels like a mere imitation of style or genre. He manages to come up with something entirely original here when filtered through his own sensibilities. Such sensibilities, however, may prove too singular or even off-putting to some audiences; the mannequin mentioned above scene takes a turn that has proved troublesome with American censors who have suggested cutting it altogether.


As troubling as some aspects may prove to some, however, there is the fact that this is Strickland's most humorous film yet. The strain of absurdist humour that has lurked near the surface before is entirely out in the open here. Sheila's bosses Stash and Clive, played by Julian Barratt and Steve Oram, prove themselves to be a deadpan, surrealist delight with their positive yet cutting feedback and Leo Bill's soon to be wed Reg Speaks will surely go down in cinema history as the most fascinatingly dull washing machine repairman ever.

If his previous two films have left you on the fence In Fabric should be the one that marks you as a dedicated fan or not. Combining the sinister aspects of Berberian Sound Studio and the twisted eroticism of Duke of Burgundy it certainly is a feast for the eyes and ears that will either leave you thrilled or perplexed. This is the Argento and Fulci remix of Are You Being Served you did not know you wanted but definitely, need in your life.


Iain MacLeod.







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 © 2000 - 2018