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In Fabric

Just like a seemingly reliable pair of pants, it’s easy to get comfortable with In Fabric before it starts thinning out over time.

Writer/director Peter Strickland sets the stage incredibly well with an opulent retro style that nods towards vintage thrillers, using a brilliant synth score provided by alternative indie band Cavern of Anti-Matter.  We begin following a lonely single mother Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste).  She’s easy to root for considering she’s rudely dismissed by her arrogant son Vince (Jaygann Ayeh) and his intrusive girlfriend Gwen (Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie);  all while trying to ease her way back into the dating scene.  She finds a boost of confidence, however, when she purchases a beautiful red dress at a foreboding department store (the staff look like they all unwind after work by attending the same cult meetings).  The dress has a history though, and it becomes obvious that the formal wear hangs over the owner in more than one way.

This initial story – its characters, its atmosphere, its take on consumerism, and its creeping horror through symmetrical imagery – is when In Fabric is in its strongest element.  The film wavers when the focus permanently shifts off of Sheila, and on to the dress’ journey.  Eventually, the haunted dress starts effecting those within its proximity, meaning the audience receives different angles from other people.  But because movie goers haven’t spent as much time with these new characters, we’re not fully invested nor are we certain if we should bother caring about these people.  Writer/director Peter Strickland ramps up the style and the over-sexualized camp to tide his viewers over (or even distract us) but, by doing so, he starts to make a flashier movie that feels less experienced and more inappropriate – a similar maneuver that caught me off guard in his 2012 thriller Berberian Sound Studio. 

It’s a shame to watch Strickland’s movies run out of steam.  He knows how to capture our attention, but he’s still trying to figure out how to hold us in suspense.

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