Retreading the crushed-velvet facade that was the 1970s, In Fabric is a dark horror comedy that is wine-stained with acknowledgements and tonal references throughout its running time.
…is a slave to its inspirations as much as Sheila is to her dress.
Initially centring on Sheila, a recently divorced 40 something bank teller whose stay-at-home son is having more sex than she is, Sheila decides it’s time for a change. Placing ads in the local newspaper’s lonely hearts column, she completes her transformation with a scarlet dress she has bought from the creepily-staffed Dentley and Soper’s department store. However, it quickly emerges that this dress has a murderous intent all of its own…
Caught somewhere between 1942’s classic Tales of Manhattan and 1983’s Christine by Stephen King, Peter Strickland’s latest comedy horror is a slave to its inspirations as much as Sheila is to her dress. From Fatma Mohamed’s hopelessly vampiric sales assistant limited to an Edgar Allen Poe infused vernacular, to Cavern of Anti-Matter’s synth-inflected score, In Fabric is one long, red warning light that doesn’t know how to turn itself off.
Unlike Berberian Sound Studio which daubed its doubt on in even layers of escalating madness, Peter Strickland’s latest foreshadows so much that it forgets to hold anything back. Saved only by the conspiratorially comic interventions of The Mighty Boosh‘s Julian Barrett and SightSeers‘ Steve Oram as two nit-picking bank managers, In Fabric‘s comic credentials only really come to the fore in its second half but by then the movie barely survives this tonal shift from dread to drollery.
Don’t get we wrong, Peter Strickland’s fascination for the 1970s as “the decade that so desperately wanted to be the 60s but turned up too late”, is beautifully observed. From the chiming harpsichord that mainlines you straight back John Barry’s score for The Persuaders, or the way the people robotically answered their phones by quoting their numbers first before even speaking, the vintage effect is total. Sadly though, this time any intrigue drowns in this surfeit of detail which results in another a film you’ll possibly enjoy more listening to than watching.