In Fabric (2019)


Direction: Peter Strickland
Country: UK

Stylized with a retro glamour and immersed in enigmatic tones, Peter Strickland’s In Fabric is more than an exercise in style and mood. Already carrying a cult status for reviving the giallo genre, the British director, who previously released the groundbreaking Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy, gave wings to imagination and wrote a mesmerizing piece about a haunting, killing red dress. What we have here is a conscious, if surrealistic, satire about the unbridled consumerism of today’s world. Strickland stated in an interview that secondhand clothes from unknown provenience always fascinated him, and this idea was his inspiration for the film.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste stars as Sheila Woodchapel, a 50-year-old divorced bank teller who started dating again to fight loneliness. She lives with her son, Vince (Jaygann Ayeh), who frequently brings home Gwen (Gwendoline Christie),  his impolite and impertinent French girlfriend, without his mother's consent. Despite some little problems at work - so meticulous that could be included in any Kafka book, everything seems normal in the life of Sheila, until she buys a cursed red dress at Dentley & Soper, an exclusive fancy store with strict rules of conduct, presentation, and hygiene, where erotically fetishist  rituals occur on a regular basis between its employees. The pale Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed has been a constant, amazing presence in Strickland’s works), a persuasive store clerk, speaks with a hypnotic voice, alluding to fantasies and illusions while urging Sheila to buy the dress that will bring her happiness. 


This fatal garment causes nasty rashes on the skin, gives rise to eerie dreams, and motivates creepy accidents of various kinds. It seems to have a life of its own and literally disintegrates any washing machine it goes in. As you suspect by now, this is not your typical horror movie. It will be considered a nonsense for many, while others will praise it as a true spectacle for the senses.

The only thing with this story is that it gets slightly repetitive when the dress changes hands and enters the home of Reg (Leo Bill), an obsessive washing machine technician, and his future wife, Babs (Hayley Squires).

Glamorously surreal, darkly funny, and avidly maniacal, this effort is uplifted by a turbulent and surprising finale. The conjugation of sinister imagery with the unblemished music by the Berlin-based experimental/krautrock trio Cavern of Anti-Matter is absolutely delightful. After this, who wants to buy quality used clothing?