Published Dec 02, 2019There's a scene in Peter Strickland's fourth film, In Fabric, where a ghoulish old man watches lustfully as the witch-like employees of his department store fondle a mannequin. As they become increasingly handsy, his seductive stare increases and we begin to see his arms vibrate beneath the frame, as if to suggest he's masturbating. It's a bawdy suggestion, to be sure, but the camera stays focused on his face. Then we see a high-contrast, slow-motion shot where pearly white ropes of semen blast through the air.
Yes, those expecting the winking eroticism of Strickland's last feature, The Duke of Burgundy, will instead be greeted with maximalist camp in his latest film, but the whole project is better off for it. In Fabric is a cheeky, playful and entirely absurd project that offers a stunning amount of depth for all of its bright, primary-coloured camp and hand-made collage aesthetics.
As its title suggests, In Fabric is ravelled around the tale of a haunted red dress from a vampiric department store. Eager to re-enter the dating scene after her son brings home an older woman (a bawdy Gwendoline Christie), Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) visits the well-advertised and unanimously adored shopping destination Dentley & Soper's.
There, she's greeted by the aforementioned shop witches, who seduce her into purchasing a sinister red dress. From there, her life devolves into comedic chaos thanks to the dress's unstoppable curse. Without giving too much away, the dress wreaks havoc on Sheila's life before making its way to an engaged couple via a charity shop.
Expertly stylized and brimming with clever dialogue, In Fabric is a retro-inspired British comedy along the lines of The Mighty Boosh, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace or Look Around You. Dig a little deeper, however, and you'll find an indictment of capitalism, a sobering look at consumerism and quite a few thoughtful things to say about the nature of fetishes.
After all, even when he's building comedic romps around slow-motion cum shots, Peter Strickland remains one hell of an artist.