Pros: role of Gwendoline Christie; unusual atmosphere of the film; irony over the sphere of consumption Cons: the second part of the film with new characters does not captivate the plot and spoils the overall impression “Little Red Dress” / In Fabric
Directed by Peter Strickland
Starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Sheila), Gwendoline Christie (Gwen), Sidse Babett Knudsen (Jean), Hayley Squires (Babs), Leo Bill (Reg), Julian Barratt (Stesh), etc.
Companies Rook Films, BBC Films, British Film Institute
Year of release 2018 (in Ukraine 2019)
The film shows a woman named Sheila. She is an exemplary bank employee, yet she is often chastised for not understanding strict corporate ethics. She also does not feel supported at home – her adult son does not show due respect. To escape reality, Sheila goes to a department store, where an artsy woman tags along. This is a consultant who convinces the heroine to buy a red dress for a successful date. When customers go home and the department store closes, rituals are performed within its walls. At this time, Sheila feels that something is wrong with the dress, and strange marks begin to appear on her body.
The original title In Fabric is still more suitable for the film than the theatrical version of “The Little Red Dress”. The fact is that the film recreates the atmosphere of the 1980s, ironizing over consumer culture and the ways in which customers were lured into stores.
The tape often repeats a television commercial inviting you to visit a department store in which something demonic is visible. The actions of people who are ready to line up in advance in front of unopened doors also balance on the line between real needs and supernatural obsession. Moreover, in the trade and service sector, according to the director and screenwriter of the film, Peter Strickland, there is a lot of fetishism hidden.
This is not the first time Peter Strickland has raised the theme of a cult around inanimate things in a retro setting (before that, he directed an equally marvelous film, Berberian Sound Studio, about recording sound for a horror film). The director does this extremely gracefully, striving for the aesthetics of the giallo genre – that is, he cannot do without elements of thriller and erotica.
In In Fabric, Strickland adds unsettling, dated music to the above elements, which plays at the most unexpected moments. Combined with manicured mannequins and witchy department store employees, the loud sounds of the soundtrack are more likely to make you laugh than seriously alarming. And this reveals the director’s original style, who ironically films old-fashioned horror without using a single modern technique characteristic of horror films.
Unfortunately, Strickland cannot stop in time and adds new characters in the second half of the film. This makes the film less interesting and very boring in places (even for those who are not yet accustomed to the existence of a killer dress on screen). New stories are not attractive, although they are tied to a single plot. And towards the climax, the director fools around and again makes fun of consumer qualities, without bothering himself with unnecessary explanations of the essence of mystical phenomena.
Regardless of the plot twists, the department store consultant played by Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth in the Game of Thrones series) still returns to the picture. She is the strangest and most graceful character who anchors the entire film. In Fabric also stars Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who plays the heroine Sheila so delicately that you want to empathize with her even in ridiculous situations.
Peter Strickland’s style of storytelling is designed for an audience that is difficult to outrage with absurdity, but is easily swayed by the aesthetics of the frame. In a word, for those who are deliberately looking for strange cinema and are nostalgic for rare cinema. It’s worth considering that In Fabric is unlikely to appeal to those who go for it for the scare effect and new mystical characters. In addition, the film is not scary at all, even though it is shot in the horror genre.
In Fabric is a specific film. It has its own aesthetics – it, like the storylines, is not for everyone