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In Fabric

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In Fabric is a film about an evil dress. This sounds preposterous and vaguely funny. Indeed, the Internet Movie Database lists In Fabric as ‘Comedy, Horror, Mystery’, and I wouldn’t argue with the horror or mystery. But quite remarkably, writer-director Peter Strickland takes this bizarre premise and weaves a fabulously eerie and often unnerving tale.

Key to Strickland’s skill is not explaining what is happening but simply presenting various odd events and letting the viewer decide what is happening. Most apparent are the bizarre sales assistants at department store Dentley and Soper, significantly Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) whose sales patter includes such eloquent gems as ‘Did the transaction validate your paradigm of consumerism?’ That turns out to be the tip of the iceberg as the staff of the store also perform occult rituals over shop dummies and enter dumb waiter boxes in a position of prostration. Into this (slightly) weird store comes Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a bank clerk raising her teenage son Vince (Jaygann Ayeh). In search of something nice for possible dates, Sheila finds a flowing red dress that provides a desired allure, but once she dons this dress strange things start to happen.

Strickland creates a thoroughly peculiar world, including mysterious appearances, unexplained rashes and the most terrifying washing machine you’re ever likely to see on screen. More broadly, very strange discussions take place, including some between Sheila and her bosses Stash (Julian Barratt) and Clive (Steve Oram) that may be familiarly uncomfortable to anyone who has worked in the service industry. Later we meet Reg Speaks (Leo Bill), a repairman who unwittingly sends people in trancelike reveries when he talks about the inner workings of washing machines. All of which could be played for laughs, but this viewer found it deeply unsettling. Come the end, I wasn’t sure what I had seen, other than an enthralling and unnerving tale of contemporary witchcraft, inappropriate conversations and malevolent material.

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1 Comment

  1. […] but plenty of choking and drowning, including a moment with a dress that deserves mention alongside In Fabric. Furthermore, the effect of drowning is notable, presented as tragic and terrifying all at once. […]

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