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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Review: In Fabric

Director: Peter Strickland
Screenplay: Peter Strickland
Year: 2019

If someone asked me what is “In Fabric” about I will say that it is a movie about a haunted dress. Although this is a spot-on description, I will surely get a disapproving glance and that will be the end of the conversation. What’s interesting is that the movie is way weirder than this. 

Sheila is a recently divorced woman willing to find love again, and in that effort, she buys a red dress in a department store for a date. After acquiring the dress strange things start happening around her, which leads her to return the dress to the store she bought it. In the store, she discovers that she is not the first victim and later we discover that she will certainly not be the last.

Since the moment in which Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste; “Spy Game”) gets into the clothing store where she buys the dress, the strange appearance of the local, along with the curious behavior of the employees makes it clear that something sinister is going on in this place. Even when it’s never explicitly said, it seems like there is a cult or a group of witches, ideas that are reinforced through the artistic aspect of the movie. The use of visuals rich in saturated colors and a matching musical composition is reminiscent of Giallo cinema and the style of directors such as Dario Argento and this is no doubt where “In Fabric” stands out; a well-crafted artistic aspect that distinguished director/writer Peter Strickland (“The Duke of Burgundy”) and distributor A24 (“The Witch”; “Midsommar”).

However, the audiovisual feat doesn’t translate into a good narrative. The first half of the movie is great, commanded by an outstanding performance from Marianne Jean-Baptiste with who is impossible not to feel empathy, and whose story is interesting although not free from unnecessary scenes that only try to elevate the artistic value or simply to be controversial. When about an hour has gone by, an unexpected twist ruins the movie, adding a second part that has little to do with the first and that makes it feel like an unfinished anthology and ends up being monotone and boring. 

You cannot talk about “In Fabric” and not mention its sexual content, for which it has plenty. Early in Sheila’s story, this flourishes as an important topic because of how she looks for a partner after her divorce and because her son seems to be obsessed with sexual topics. In this scenario the sexual content makes sense, but in other parts is brought up with the mere goal of being extravagant, like with an artistic shot of a line of freshly ejaculated semen flying over imposed on a black background or showing the vagina of a mannequin menstruating as part of a strange ritual.

“In Fabric” offers an impressive audiovisual experience influenced by Giallo cinema, which it pays homage to in a great way, but that by putting the artistic side above all, it sacrifices the narrative. The plot in some parts loses focus and in others makes little to no sense and the abrupt change in narration emphasizes these problems. The movie has at least 30 minutes in excess that if they would have been gotten rid of would have resulted in a more balanced product and there are too many scenes that are shoved in just for their artistic value or controversy but that little has to do with the plot. It’s also worth mentioning that even when this movie is classified as a horror-comedy, the comedy never shows up in a plot that takes itself very seriously.

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