If you’re a horror fan, then you know all the classic trappings of the giallo genre. A beautiful woman, gruesome and gory murders, and bright red blood spatter were all essentials in ’70s Italian horror flicks. Four decades later, the new film In Fabric borrows these classic elements to craft a deeply weird and dark fable that serves as perfect midnight movie material. A loving throwback to Euro-horror and ghostly British anthology films, director Peter Strickland’s film continues his tradition of infusing his movies with creepy imagery and characters. Set against the backdrop of the winter holiday sales period, the story begins with recent divorcée Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), who lives in a dreary suburb in southern England. Her life revolves entirely around work and her high school-aged son Vince (Jaygann Ayeh), who is dating an older woman ( Gwendoline Christie, looking her most goth).
In search of more, she decides to jump back into the dating pool and heads to department store Dentley and Stoper in search of a new dress for an upcoming date. Sheila meets the head sales clerk (Fatma Mohamed), who sells her a gorgeous red dress that magically seems to fit her perfectly. A little too perfectly, as if the dress chooses the wearer, not vice versa.
It all starts to go a bit off the rails when Sheila notices the dress seems to leave a red, almost rot-like rash on she wears it on a first date. Eventually, we see that the dress seems to have a mind of it’s own. Does it have some sort of spell cast on it? Is it possessed? Could the department store be run by a coven of witches? The film never really addresses these details, but it certainly feels like something sinister is going on within the walls of this establishment. Plus, there’s some lore about a former catalogue model for the store who met a violent end wearing the dress, but it doesn’t really go anywhere further.
If you like your horror films more plot-driven and coherent, In Fabric is probably not the right movie for you. But if you are into midnight horror movies, then In Fabric will probably be up your alley. A bizarre, dizzying throwback to European horror of the ‘70s, the film is worth a watch if you love filmmakers like Dario Argento or Mario Bava. It is filled with some delicious giallo-like imagery. The reds are that deep, bright blood red and the murders are gruesome and plentiful. And as the film takes a complete turn halfway through, part of the fun is in not knowing where In Fabric will go to next.
The film fills out its cast with a bunch of British TV regulars. Julian Barratt ( The Mighty Boosh) and Steve Oram (The End of the F***ing World) play Sheila’s micromanaging bosses at the bank where she works. Their performances are ridiculous and silly, adding some much needed humor to the film when the plot gets a bit too weird. And as the rude girlfriend of Sheila’s son, Gwendoline Christie’s role a completely 180 from her past characters. It’s delightfully over-the-top and fun, and I only wish she were in the film more.
It’s almost a shame In Fabric doesn’t exist as a worn-out tape on VHS, as it’s exactly the kind of movie you want to discover late at night with friends. We can’t promise all of it will make sense, but the fun, sometimes terrorizing conceit and vibrant imagery and will linger with audiences long after watching the film.
Rating: A blood-soaked 3 out of 5
Images: TIFF/BBC Films
Michelle Buchman is the social media manager at Nerdist Industries. She’s also a huge cinephile. Feel free to follow and chat movies with her on Twitter, @michelledeidre.