in fabric | peter strickland | gwendoline christie | marianne jean-baptiste | sidse babett knudsen | comedy | united kingdom | curse | cult | ritual | caroline catz | julian barratt | leo bill | hayley squires | richard bremmer | susanna cappellaro | arthouse
Film: In Fabric
Director: Peter Strickland
Writer: Peter Strickland
Starring: Gwendoline Christie, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Sidse Babett Knudsen
This was a film that I really didn’t know a lot about, but heard podcasts I listen to speaking quite highly of it, so I was definitely intrigued to check it out. All I did know was that it was about a cursed dress and that also sparked my interest. The synopsis is a haunting ghost story set against the backdrop of a busy winter sales period in a department store and follows the life of a cursed dress as it passes from person to person, with devastating consequences…
We start off following Shelia (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). It does a solid job at establishing her as a character. She is a bank teller where we see that she sometimes gets caught up in her personal life and slightly ignores her duties. She is recently divorced and living with her son Vince (Jaygann Ayeh). He’s seeing Gwen (Gwendoline Christie) and she even learns her ex-husband has a new girlfriend. She is trying to date, but we see even that isn’t going necessarily great.
She notices one of her dresses has a hole in it and decides to go to a shop which is having a sale. The staff there is quite odd and she is talked into buying a red dress by Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed). Shelia finds it to be a risqué, but decides to go with it any way. She notices though that it causes a rash on her chest, has an odd piece of material with a weird statement sewn to the interior and that the dress seems to move around the house on its own. Her life seems to get better once she purchases it, but it also leads to some strange things happening as well.
The dress does end up changing hands to Reg Speaks (Leo Bill) for his stag party before he marries Babs (Hayley Squires). Both of them wear it, getting the same rash and odd things start to happen in their life as well. All the while, there is the odd staff of Dently and Soper’s, where Shelia bought the dress. They are up to some strange rituals that we are privy too, but might be affecting those that come in contact with this dress.
Now for this review, I wanted to go a little bit vague to avoid spoiling this one. There’s a lot to delve into this film. The first thing to point out would be that this is definitely arthouse. When it kicks off, I wasn’t entirely sure if this was going to be a period piece as it almost feels like it is taking place in the 1970’s with some of the fashion and we never really see technology either outside of how Sheila is dating as well as her answering machine. It also made me smile because one of the biggest pieces of their advertising for this store is their catalogue. I remember as kid using the Sears catalogue to pick out items that I wanted for Christmas or for back to school shopping which I don’t think they do really anymore.
The big thing this film is trying to convey though is consumerism. We have all of these people in the movie that are talking about this department store and what they’ve bought on sale there. It doesn’t surprise me that this is based just after Christmas, as the store doesn’t want to take an item back so they don’t have to pay the year end taxes on it being in the inventory. Both of Sheila’s dates tell her they have a voucher if they order together and share a pudding. The movie isn’t being sly about it, but I think these are all things that we think about when we are shopping though. It is an interesting look as a society for sure.
There is also something to be said about this dress. Sheila doesn’t think that she can wear it as it is out of her comfort zone. Miss Luckmoore changes her mind about it, even though her sales pitch is quite odd. What I like though is that it does bring her confidence. She is able to tell her son off when he is doing something to aggravate her and also stands up to Gwen. The dress also ruins her life. What is intriguing to me though is that it also ruins Reg’s and Bab’s life. It makes its mark and then influences those around them as well.
Something that I didn’t necessarily like was the comedy. I do like the awkwardness we get in the movie. There actually were parts made me laugh when others in the theater didn’t. This movie has some uncomfortable things that happen for sure and a good deal of that comes from Miss Luckmoore and those she works with. There were a couple missteps here though that kind of hurt the movie a bit for me. Plus I really wanted to know more about what is actually going on in this department store. It definitely creeped me out, but it is just a bit too ambiguous for my liking.
The only other real issue I had was with the length of this film. I think that there was a bit that could be trimmed. I don’t have issues with longer movies, if it is needed. Being that this goes all the way to 2 hours pretty much, I think this could be trimmed to 1:45 or hour and half. I think it would play better in the end for me. I do like though what happens to the characters and the fate they end up with for sure.
That moves me next to the acting, which I thought was really good. Christie was in a role I’ve never seen her play before and I thought she did it well. She is a bit of arrogance over Sheila that is uncomfortable and being that she is dating a younger man. I thought it worked well here. Jean-Baptiste was great if I’m honest. She subtly shows so much pain that I felt horrible. Seeing things start to look up and then her fate I thought plays well. I developed a crush the more I saw of Squires. She was solid. I thought Bill was good. Mohamed and everyone at the store were creepy and I thought they did great. The rest of the cast rounded out the movie for what was needed.
I’ll shift to the effects, which much like the acting was good. There aren’t a lot of them though and that helps. The blood we see looks real. Seeing the mashing machines destroy themselves was unnerving. Also bringing the dress to life was really interesting for me as well. The film is also shot beautifully and some of the odd things we see in the background or on television definitely help as well.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. If I’m honest, I think this actually made some scenes pretty creepy. I actually really want to seek out the soundtrack here which was done by Cavern of Anti-Matter. I could feel the tension going up through what they were doing which I liked. There is also a good use of sounds off-screen which definitely helped the creepiness as well.
Now with that said, I heard good things about this and was intrigued to finally check it out. I have to say that it definitely didn’t disappointment. There is such an interesting concept and I like how it played out. I thought that the acting really helps here though and seeing how this cursed dress affects their lives. I do think that it runs a bit long and could’ve been trimmed just a bit. The fate of the characters though definitely worked for me. There aren’t a lot of effects, but what we get is good as was the soundtrack. I will warn you that this is an arthouse film, so if that’s an issue, I’d avoid this. If not, I think this is actually a brilliant horror film. I would actually recommend this to non fans of the genre that like artsy movies for sure.
My Rating: 9 out of 10