Fetishizing every single inch of the frame, Peter Strickland has crafted a loving ode to retro Euro horror that would make Italian horror legend Mario Bava exclaim “Bravo!” Hybridizing the best aspects of Giallo, an Italian genre featuring mystery, thriller and horror elements with the rich traditions of British comedies, Strickland has crafted yet another singular piece of filmmaking brimming with absurd originality. “In Fabric” unfurls in a seductively twisted manner, simultaneously extolling the transformative powers of couture clothing while satirizing the consumerist entities perpetuating it.
Out of respect for “In Fabric’s” many mysteries, all I’ll say is that it tells the tragic tale of a cursed dress and the misfortune of those who become its victims. We’re introduced into the nightmarish suburb of Thames Valley on Thames by way of Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a recent divorcee hopelessly looking for reinvention. Sheila passes her days in a constant state of claustrophobia, bank-telling inside a glass box for a living and unable to leave her room while at home because of her son’s sexual rampancy around the house. The oneiric pulses of department store Dentley & Soper’s advertisements finally drive her to indulge in a little therapeutic commercialism at the aforementioned damned department store.
Now, Dentley & Soper’s isn’t your typical department store. Their head saleswoman Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) speaks solely in bewitching riddles, a stylistic decision that allows Strickland’s Transylvanian muse to shine yet again. Uttering lines like “A purchase on the horizon, a panoply of temptation, the hesitation in your voice, soon to be an echo in the recesses of the spheres of retail,” Mohamed proves veritably bewitching, justifying the oddities of Strickland’s world by grounding them within a tangible unreality. Thus, as onanistic rituals begin taking place past midnight, you don’t even question it; on the contrary, you swallow the barrage of madness thrown your way and delight in its savory gobs.
There’s a hypnotic effect to the way Strickland presents his surreal brand of horror, utilizing repetition to hypnotic effect. Whether it’s the recurring characters, or the way repairman Reg (Leo Bill) recurrently entraps people in oversexed trances while deadpanning about a washer’s machinery, the structure and stylings of “In Fabric” move in a swirling fashion that’s meant to daze the viewer before the imagery on display. It’s mysterious and enthralling and a brilliant latest entry in the forgotten Giallo genre. That, combined with the rotating colors of Ari Wegner’s cinematography, Paki Smith’s sumptuous production design and the rhythmic synth-riffs of Cavern of Anti-Matter’s score enchants in the way Dentley & Soper’s clothing does for the throngs of shoppers who recontextualize their lives via the retailer’s catalogue.
Though it might not be as slick as his previous films, “In Fabric” delights in its excess, using it as a means of mollycoddling the audience and amalgamating the best qualities of vintage Euro horror. Strickland’s straying has allowed him to generate an anarchistically zany commentary on consumerism that reaffirms his status as one of the most innovative directors working today.
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