VOD film review: In Fabric
James R | On 28, Jun 2019
Director: Peter Strickland
Cast: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Gwendoline Christie, Julian Barratt, Steve Oram
There are weird films, and there are weird films. And then there’s In Fabric, Peter Strickland’s bizarre oddity that combines horror, comedy and haute couture to cast a bewildering and bewitching spell.
Marianne Jean-Baptiste stars as bank clerk Sheila, who spends her days smiling politely at customers and her nights worrying about her distant son, who’s dating a sadomasochistic smug older woman (played with relish by an unrecognisable Gwendoline Christie). And so she decides to mix things up by putting an ad in the local lonely hearts column – and, just to make sure she’s ready to start dating, splashes some cash on a dress in the sales as Dentley & Soper’s Trusted Department Store.
The catch? It’s a demon of a dress, literally, and Sheila finds her life haunted by its crimson red fabric, as things around her begin to dismantle, often fatally. Spooky clothing? It sounds laughable, but Strickland leans into the warped humour, dialling up the strangeness at every opportunity. The shop staff alone are a hysterical delight, from the Nosferatu-like boss (Richard Bremmer) and his truly disconcerting TV ads to the staff’s flowery sales talk, peppered with incomprehensible metaphors – after a few scenes with Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed), you won’t be able to hear the word “imagine” in the same way again.
The cast savour the disconcerting comedy, with Steve Oram and Julian Barratt even popping up for a laugh-out-loud dose of politeness in the face of the strangeness. But it’s Strickland’s show, and the Duke of Burgundy and Berberian Sound Studio director is in his element, confidently finding a way to flow from one plot to another without dropping a stitch in his delicately woven atmosphere; you’ve never seen a film this scary that features a washing machine repairman.
The result is a throwback erotic thriller that finds its own unique style between the towels and linen that Britons keep behind locked doors – a frightening, funny number laced with frills to die for.