In Fabric

After a divorce, Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is ready to dip her toe into the dating scene and as luck would have it, there is a big sale at Dentley & Soper’s department store. A red dress catches her eye, although it is a little more provocative a piece of clothing than she usually wears. Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) assures her that her date will compliment her, but there is something awfully sinister “In Fabric.”

Laura's Review: B

Writer/director Peter Strickland ("Berberian Sound Studio") takes his predilection for Italian giallo inspired horror and stylish kinkiness and has himself a hilarious field day with his latest, a tale of a murderous dress moving from victim to victim. Featuring a standout performance from Strickland regular Fatma Mohamed, looking like the female Vogue version of Coppola’s “Dracula” while delivering the most deliciously tortured formal dialogue, “In Fabric” is a hoot.

Everyone who dons the dress, from Sheila to a washing machine repairman at his stag party, develops a rather distinctive rash and after they are marked they are doomed. The dress appears to have a mind of its own, hanging suspended in air, slithering under doorways or rippling into fashionable draping, at least when it’s not screeching back and forth on Sheila’s clothes rod in time to Miss Luckmoore whipping her hair. There is something weird afoot at Dentley & Soper’s where Luckmoore arranges realistic looking menstruating mannequins for the masturbatory delight of Mr. Lundy (Richard Bremer).

Sex is everywhere, if not always sexy. If Sheila’s blind date Adonis (Anthony Adjekum) is a dud, her son Vince (Jaygann Ayeh) makes up for it with kinky art model Gwen (Gwendoline Christie). After her washing machine freaks out, repairman Reg Speaks (Leo Bill) has a night of debauchery followed by mechanical sex with his bored fiancée Babs (Hayley Squires, "I, Daniel Blake").

Strickland has some serious fun with weird absurdities like everyone being held to account by bank managers Clive (Steve Oram) and Stash (Julian Barratt) or all of Sheila’s dates using discount coupons for a local Greek restaurant. After learning that there is only one ‘Ambassadorial Function Dress in Red Artery,’ Sheila is assured by Luckmoore that catalog model Jill Woodmere (Sidse Babett Knudsen, "The Duke of Burgundy") showered assiduously before donning it (she neglects to mention she was also killed by it).

Strickland’s film takes inspiration in its style from England’s Hammer Horrors of the 60’s and 70’s, Cavern Of Anti-Matter’s (Stereolab’s Tim Gane) harpsichord score nostalgically on point. A phrase stitched in script inside the dress recalls “The Phanton Thread” while the dress’s last act brings on “The House of Wax.” Luckmoore’s contortions inside a dumbwaiter are eerie, but her revelatory destination is a bit of a let down. “In Fabric” isn’t as strong as Strickland’s earlier films, outstaying its welcome, but it is devilishly stylish and mirthfully macabre.

Robin's Review: B-