Peter Strickland’s fourth film, maintains the aesthetic of his previous pictures, while taking a story that plays homage to M.R. James, injecting it with B-Movie horror and lashings of dark humour. In Fabric is Strickland at his creative best, offering a completely unique visual and auditory journey unlike anything else in todays cinema landscape.
Just like previous Strickland films, In Fabric defies genre classification alongside a narrative that takes place in an undefined time period, mixing imagery from the 1950s through to the 1980s in creating its own unique universe, that feels distinctly British in style and design.
Set in the fictional town of Thames Valley on Thames, Strickland creates a bubble of consumerist history. This is a town where the traditional British high street remains in tact, alongside industry and leisure that feeds the towns needs. While growing consumerism slowly changes the very landscape and ideals of its residents. British small town life from the 1970s and 1980s transplanted into an undefined universe, that often feels reminiscent of the dark comedy inherent in TVs The League of Gentlemen. A playful yet ultimately dark exploration of businesses and industry, where characters use their place and position to define the very soul of the town they inhabit.
At the centre of the town sits Dentley & Soper’s department store, dominating the urges of the towns folk to spend their hard earned cash. The classic department store motif of elegance and power subverted into a gothic nightmare of secrets and desires. The department store staff dressed in victorian attire, talking in riddles while persuading the towns folk to spend on image. The store itself harbouring dark secrets and desires as the owner (Richard Bremmer) and his floor manager Miss Luckmore (Fatma Mohamed) indulge in erotic rituals with the shops mannequins after closing.
At the heart of Dentley & Soper’s sits a beautiful red dress, tinged with tragedy and haunted by the owner who modelled it for the stores catalogue. Its flowing red beauty holding the demonic intent of killing all those who dare to wear it. A homage to the early TV outings of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, where everyday objects often became tinged with tragedy and horror.
The killer red dress finds it way into the hands of Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a local bank worker who has recently separated from her husband. Her life a monotony of work, bad dates and parenthood, her own obsessions and desires cloaked in mystery as she searches for something new. Sheila’s teenage son (Jaygann Ayeh) shows little interest or respect in his mother as he inhabits his own artistic world , while his older girlfriend (Gwendoline Christie) revels in disrupting the family home.
With Sheila’s life at a low point, the new but cursed red dress offers her the confidence to believe her life can be better than the one she currently has, the power of consumerism embodied in red flowing fabric. However, as the reality of the killer dress becomes apparent, and the past wearer known, the dress takes Sheila hostage, with beautifully constructed dark humour, killer washing machines and horror. The dress not only becoming a symbol of death and terror, but a glowing motif of consumerism, that often leaves the owner unfulfilled, the desire for something new ever present when the novelty wears off.
In Fabric is visually arresting, the red dress burning with intensity alongside the blood and desire it creates. While the design and vision of the town it inhabits crosses multiple styles creating a uniquely British yet gothic aesthetic. Coupled with a superb score from Cavern of Anti-Matter, In Fabric sears itself into your memory, not letting go long after the credits have rolled.
Mixing the Italian horror of Dario Argento, with a very British tongue in cheek ghost story, In Fabric offers a truly unique vision and style unlike anything else in currently adorning the cinema screen.