British writer-director Peter Strickland creates worlds full of kink, danger, and the supernatural. His films owe a lot of 70s horror films like the giallos out of Italy. With each film, he seems to be exploring those influences in unique ways. Berberian Sound Studio, The Duke of Burgundy, and now In Fabric has established Strickland as a unique, daring voice.
In Fabric dares us to laugh at it. This is a film about a homicidal dress after all. What is so impressive is that we end up laughing with this unusual film and eventually root for the dress. The film follows the dress over the course of a few owners of it. Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptise) is the first. She is a bank teller and a single mom who is returning to the dating pool after a divorce. The dress is for a date, one that turns out to be terrible. Sheila buys the dress from a particularly arty department store. The clerk (Fatma Mohamed) has a witchy quality to her and soon convinces Sheila to buy the dress despite its history. The last person to wear was a model who apparently died due to being trampled by a zebra. Behind the scenes, the clerks of the store gather in a ritual and begin bathing a bleeding mannequin and masturbating their leader.
At this point, you probably know if In Fabric is your cup of tea or not. The film has a beguiling atmosphere and a hypnotic score. Strickland is far more interested in creating a mood than offering explanations. This approach works because who really needs the backstory on a possessed dress. The focus is instead on consumerism. The coven of witches exploit desire and lure new victims who want glamor at a discount.
Sheila is interrogated about her job performance at the bank by two superiors (Steve Oram and Julian Barratt). Their initial scene feels like a side plot until we see that they connect to the next owner of the dress, a washing-machine repairman named Reg (Leo Bill). Reg lives a mundane life. He is so boring that he often hypnotizes the people around him that have to listen to him. He is given the dress to wear on his stag night but it soon takes control of his life.
In Fabric features glamor, horror, humor and a floating dress. It has an incredible style and mood to it. The film isn't going to be for everyone but for those open to it, it is another singular film from Strickland. Only he could make a killer dress film so sensual, human and unforgettable.