Kill, couture, kill! You’ve got an evil-spirited dress wreaking havoc upon all those who encounter it, pitch-black humor about consumerism, demented kill scenes, Peter Strickland’s direction, and an A24 distribution. IN FABRIC is the British horror-comedy that we didn’t know we needed.
IN FABRIC is narratively split into two halves: one half (the superior half) introduces us to Sheila, (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) a divorced middle-aged mom who encounters the damned red dress while searching for something to wear for a date; the other half centers on Reg— (Leo Bill) an unhappy salesman who comes face-to-face with the dress during his alcohol-fueled bachelor party before his upcoming nuptials— and his anxious fiancée Babs (Hayley Squires). Any other plot details will best be experienced during viewing.
If you got a kick out of Velvet Buzzsaw a few months ago, IN FABRIC is like a smarter, cheekier, slier, more British version— except its victims are nowhere near as vapid and hollow. Instead, the film’s primary antagonist (yes, the cursed dress) is absolutely ruthless, not giving a damn if the person purchasing it actually deserves to die horrifically for simply wanting to look and feel incredible, like any individual has the right to desire to. IN FABRIC often gives us so much screen time with incredibly human characters, only to throat-punch us with the horrendously cruel occurrences that happen to them at any given moment, (while also making us laugh at its audacity and absurdity), to which I give it immense praise.
Like I hinted at previously, the first half of the film is pretty flawless— told with such profundity that you are completely immersed within this world and its characters, and it feels almost irritating to cut to the second story, which dragged the film down for me. I even felt the audience in my Overlook screening starting to move around and get fidgety, as was I. Fortunately, Strickland increases the pace and won me back over by the film’s final 10 minutes, with a fiery conclusion that had me on the edge of my seat. I appreciated how he ties the two halves of the story together, I just wish he would have given us either a) an anthology with three or four different story threads (no pun intended) or b) axed the second storyline altogether and added more with Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s Sheila and her world. Jean-Baptiste was so delightful to watch on screen, and I craved more of her.
In addition to Jean-Baptiste, the performances from the actors who make up the cast of department store employees that knowingly pass off the dress are nothing short of iconic. The standout being the utterly hilarious, conniving store clerk Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) whose stone-faced delivery of Strickland’s outlandish dialogue had the audience in stitches. Even if you have trouble making out what Miss Luckmoore is saying occasionally, with her purposely thick, hard-to-place accent, Mohamed’s physical performance will transfix you. And did I mention the totally game Richard Bremmer, who portrays storeowner Mr. Lundy, pleasures himself to breathing mannequins that bleed and grow pubic hair? …Yup, that happens. And it’s hysterically disturbing in the best way possible.
If you’re a ‘70s cinema lover, you’ll be drooling. From its synth score, to its mini antenna kitchen TVs, to its vintage title card and opening credits, Strickland’s film not only takes inspiration from this era of cheeky cinema (think hints of A Clockwork Orange) but pokes fun at it as well, as any good satire would. Particularly, if you’re a ‘70s giallo fan, you will be equally tickled, yet unnerved by the dress’s thirst for blood that rivals the dirty work of any mysterious killer or coven of witches from this period— a brazen take on the Suspirias and Deep Reds of this era that took themselves way more seriously. Strickland mixes aesthetics from other ‘70s filmmakers like De Palma, Argento, and Lynch, to a bonkers degree (and that is saying something when talking about those three.)
As with all A24 films, the dry, dark comedy/horror hybrid IN FABRIC will be for acquired tastes. But if you unironically appreciate mean-spirited, possessed dresses and evil, convulsing mannequins that cause old, creepy men to masturbate in the middle of department stores, IN FABRIC is for you. It sure as hell was for me.
IN FABRIC is scheduled for release sometime later this year.