An intriguing story about a haunted garment that causes destruction and death to whoever wears it sounds like it could be this year’s Rubber but with a Peter Strickland twist that won’t be to everyone’s taste.
With an enticing sale on at Dentley & Soper’s Trusted Department Store, bank clerk Shelia buys a red dress to wear on a date. But after a disappointing time, she finds a strange rash on her chest. The dress later finds its way to soon to be married couple, Reg and Babs after the former is made to wear the dress on his stag do. After both wearing it, the couple also find a strange rash on their chests. The mystery surrounding the garment isn’t quite revealed but hinted at by the strange attendants at the department store who seem to know the powers the dress possess.
The mysterious red dress that literally has a life of its own, hinted to be haunted by the model who wore it in the store catalogue before she died, is a disturbing force. It eerily crawls across the ground, looking for its next victim or hovers in mid air watching over the latest owner. The dress is treated like a lucky/unlucky talisman, like the rabbit’s foot or the monkey’s paw, leaning over the edge towards horror despite the film’s oddball humour. Essentially moving from victim to victim or owner to owner, depending on how you decipher the situation, the dress and its past are not revealed. The more interesting story to follow would be the store attendants who all dress in old-fashioned costumes, wearing stiff wigs and elaborate make up. One in particular, the one who tries very hard and succeeds in letting the dress out of the store, near the start, she climbs into a dumbwaiter in the store and we don’t see where it leads until the end where she is accompanied by a mannequin. The story doesn’t take us here though; it merely ends on another mystery.
The mystery isn’t enough to make In Fabric an intriguing story. With the mixture of horror genre tropes and comedy, the plot thickens but comes across as wooden dialogue, which is a shame when great-underrated actresses such as Marianne Jean-Baptiste are a wasted talent. The somewhat disturbing and ridiculous imagery used at points in the film are just jarring and come across as mish-mash of styles. With such a promising premise that could have been strange but alluring, you’re left with a confused and irritating feeling that nothing really made sense.
Dir: Peter Strickland
Prd: Andrew Starke
Scr: Peter Strickland
Cast: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Hayley Squires, Leo Bill, Gwendoline Christie, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Caroline Catz
DoP: Ari Wegner
Running time: 118 minutes