“In Fabric” Review

In Fabric [2018] – ★★★ in fabric poster

👗 A critique of consumerism and employment culture invades a ghost story, and with the 1970s aesthetics, and enough eccentricities and humour, culminates in a very unusual viewing experience.

Peter Strickland is known for such unusual and, in some way, “brave” films as Berberian Sound Studio (2012) and The Duke of Burgundy (2014). In In Fabric, he takes his boldness and unconventionality to a whole new level and crafts a film which is an eerie ghost story involving a dress on the one hand, and a critique of consumerism with much humour, weirdness and some shock thrown into it, on the other. Can horror and comedy, and a consumerism critique and a ghost premise be fused together successfully? Strickland thinks they can, and, probably, only he can pull off such a mix of premises without a film becoming a disaster. The story here is that a woman, Sheila, stumbles upon a gorgeous, silky red dress, without realising that it is possessed by a ghost of a woman who modelled it before. Sheila goes on a blind date wearing the dress, but also develops a strange rash after wearing it. Then, the ghostly dress ends up in the hands of a mechanic and his girlfriend, while also having evil intentions. In the meantime, in the department store that sold the dress, strange, shocking rituals take place, with sales assistants, knowing the power of the dress only too well, now wanting it back. The plot may sound a bit ludicrous and not everything works out in this film, and what become memorable are the film’s aesthetics, music, colour, feel of the 1970s decade, recalling Italian giallo movies, as well as strange humour.

In Fabric Image

One of the film’s objectives is to establish a ghost story involving a dress that brings trouble to whoever wears it. The dress has a tendency to wreck washing machines, for example. Another objective is to point out some nonsensicalities of consumerism, employment culture and even the dating scene. While the former premise is more or less intriguing, it works slightly worse than the latter premise which is designed to ridicule people who are obsessed with the latest fashion trends to their detriment. Strickland even gives a smacking to company culture and working environment. For example, at one point, Sheila is being interrogated by her work superiors who tell her that there are rumours that she does not shake hands properly with customers upon greeting, and that she may practice this essential routine at home. The absurd takes the central stage. The film has more humorous scenes than one would expect, and it is really interesting to see how the film tries to maintain the façade of seriousness, while unveiling its more preposterous situations.

On the negative side, a number of sub-plots and minor characters do not fit well into the story, and, although the acting of the lead actresses is very good, the acting done by some others feels like it is good enough only for a TV series, than a major film. However, In Fabric still culminates on a high note, while offering some insight into mysterious and morbid workings of the unseen and the unsuspected in the consumer world.

bfi film festival 2018In Fabric, which competed in the recent London Film Festival for the Best Picture award, has to be applauded for a risky approach it takes, as well as for its cinematographic vision, which has its own peculiar aesthetics, reminding of low-budget film extravaganzas of the past. Its director must also be praised for the bravery of pulling off something so idiosyncratic and unusual on screen. It is not an excellent film, because the plot does not hold up to scrutiny, having so many objectives to accomplish and being so nonsensical in its presentation. However, this totally bizarre ghost story film may just be your cup of tea, especially if you do not mind scenarios that are unafraid to be a bit ludicrous, a bit inexplicable, a bit morbid, a bit humorous and a bit witty – all at the same time, of course. 

6 Comments Add yours

  1. While reading this, I hade a rather strange association to the Japanese New Wave film “The Face of Another”. How the things we “wear”, be it a dress or a face, change us. Sounds like an interesting premise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      It surely does, and “The Face of Another” looks like a film worth checking out. Thanks for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris says:

    In Fabric sounds like a unique horror. I don’t know if will receive a theatrical release were I live, I will look out for it. Berberian Sound Studio and Duke of Burgundy weren’t perfect but I liked the layers and mystery which is not always the case in the run-of-the-mill horror out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      I agree about the layers and mystery in Strickland’s films. I was surprised to find so much humor in In Fabric too. It was a very unusual film.

      Liked by 1 person

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