Not long before I saw In Fabric – and in fact, the deciding factor in the act of me getting off my ass to go see it already – I came across this interview with director Peter Strickland: in which he espouses his admiration for great British directors like Ken Loach and David Lean, but admits his own predilection towards pure trash. As soon as I read those words, I knew that I had to see this movie. Because there is little I love more in this great cinematic landscape than some beautifully-crafted utter fucking nonsense.
In Fabric is, undoubtedly, an intensely trashy film. Pure pulp, it depicts the story of a haunted dress, and a pair of characters with the bad luck to come into its posession. The horror elements play as Hammer-adjacent as you would hope, and, while the performances are consistently great (Gwendoline Christie as the dissaffected, predatory model who steals your wine and shags your son is a particular standout), In Fabric embraces the absurdity of a spooky garment story and lets loose with the utter ridiculousness – all while maintaining this gorgeous, arthouse aesthetic that doesn’t drop for an instant.
In Fabric, like the rest of Peter Strickland’s impressive back catalogue, is just a stunningly well-made film. Thematically, it hinges around the notion of hypnosis, and that’s something that Strickland explores through a variety of techniques – from an unsettling TV advertisement, to spiralling sets – hell, this movie even managed to trigger my ASMR, and I’d be very surprised if that wasn’t another tool in the arsenal meant to hypnotize us as an audience into falling for this odd, sexy, vampy little piece. The sound design is a joy to behold (behear?), and the parallels Strickland finds between capitalism, hypnotism, and religious worship feel so rich and ready for the unpicking.
I think what this film reminded me of, more than anything, was Suspiria – because Luca Guagadino’s take on that film was so beautiful and so empty and so completely unaware of how silly it was. Every time In Fabric feels like it’s dipping a little too far into the arthouse, it throws the audience a nod and a wink to remind us that it’s in on the joke – pointedly overwritten dialogue that turns retail sales pitches into Wiccan incantations, the hypnotic powers of a washing-machine repairman, the Office-esque surrealism of a meeting with the higher-ups at a local bank. What Suspiria lacked in the ability to actually accept that it was a daft little slice of nothing, In Fabric utterly embraces.
And that’s what lets it get away with it’s more out-there elements. In Fabric is in on the joke, and it wants you to come along and see it through to the punchline. Defty, witty, and utterly, utterly trashy, In Fabric is a delicious horror treat for anyone looking for a little more silly with their scary.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Curzon Artificial Eye)