December 6, 2019 In Fabric (Movie Review)
When you see the award winning Ben Wheatley in the opening credits of a film serving as executive producer you know you are in for something unique. That said, from acclaimed Horror Director Peter Strickland, the singular auteur behind the sumptuous sadomasochistic romance of 2014’s The Duke of Burgundy and auditory Gallo-homage of 2012’s Berberian Sound Studio, comes In Fabric, a truly nightmarish film for the ages. At turns frightening, seductive, darkly humorous, it also channels voyeuristic fantasies of high fashion and bloodshed.
Receiving rave reviews since premiering at TIFF in 2018, In Fabric is set to hit theaters on Friday, December 6th, 2019 via A24. Perhaps Strickland’s most twisted and brilliantly original vision yet, the story follows a lonely woman named Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste: Secrets & Lies 1996, Without a Trace series), recently separated from her husband, visits a bewitching London department store in search of a dress that will transform her life.
She is 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 addition to Jean-Baptiste, the film also stars Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones series, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens 2015), Jaygann Ayeh (The Souvenir 2019, The Souvenir: Part II 2020), Fatma Mohamed (Katalin Varga 2009,The Duke of Burgundy 2014), Hayley Squires (Call The Midwife 2012, Southcliffe 2013), and Leo Bill (28 Days Later… 2002, Becoming Jane 2007).
This factors in mind, it is certainly no surprise as to why In Fabric collected awards back in 2018 on the festival circuit because it certainly deserves them. Right away Strickland knows how to get into your guts with his abrasive yet elegantly strange style. His use of sound and image smashing together creating these flash photography montages in between live action sequences ultimately finishing them off with a woman’s hand slamming into frame… Strickland is clearly someone who’s desire as an artist is to innovate while also delivering the goods of what horror fans and general cinephiles come to expect.
Additionally, you have to commend Strickland for taking a laughable idea of a killer dress and grounding it in reality. Well a quasi reality. Not to mention taking that idea and turning it up to 11. You can tell he clearly has a command of blending horror and comedy seamlessly. On a technical level, it’s a true marvel. The haunting score, the lush yet disturbing cinematography, the performances… It is all wonderfully odd that you can’t help but be thrusted into Strickland’s manic fun-house of bizarre obsessions. It is hard not to imagine Strickland was not inspired by Italian Horror of Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento among others considering the influence is plastered all over the frame from beginning to end.
Now it is important to note that this story is in fact anthological which might throw some people off at first. The first half centers on Jean-Baptiste’s character Sheila. A single mom who is struggling to get back into the dating scene and using this beautiful red dress in order to bolster up more confidence to do so. The story tonally almost feels like a Black Mirror episode minus the technology aspect. By the one hour mark, the film transitions into a completely different story centering on a socially awkward man Reg Speaks (played by Leo Bill) and his newly wedded wife.This story is certainly the weaker of the two as it is less focused and is far weirder to almost a frustrating degree but not without its merits.
General audience members might feel perhaps cheated by the second half especially since the first half is just so riveting. But if you decide to surrender to it you’ll have a much more pleasant time with the whole experience. The fluidity of going from one story to an entirely different one is enormously helped by its smooth editing by Matyas Fekete. This saves it from feeling disjointed because with a risk taking endeavor like this that very much could have happened. Even if the first tale feels closer to a straight Tales From The Crypt episode and the second feels like a page from David Lynch’s cinematic bible but is that such a bad thing? Of course not.
Overall In Fabric is a film that will easily be polarizing with its reception because of obvious reasons however as a cinematic and bold experience it excels. Peter Strickland is a true artist and artists take risks. You might love it, you might hate it, you might even be angered by some of it but at the end of the day if certain images aren’t burned into your brain by the end of this hallucinatory roller coaster ride then you must be a robot. That is why Cryptic Rock gives In Fabric 4 out of 5 stars.