In Fabric - This Movie Does Not Rock
Dir: Peter Strickland
Starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Hayley Squires, Gwendoline Christsie, Leo Brill, Richard Bremner, Steve Oram, Julian Barratt
Peter Strickland (alongside Ben Whatley, who gets a credit here) have a fondness for 1970s giallo. Strickland indulged his passion with the visuals and sound design of Berberian Sound Studio, Wheatley with Kill List and more. This semi-team up sees Strickland in particular go deeper into the form of the genre, but the deeper he goes, the question he most raises is why is he bothering?
In Fabric (not a reference to the famed London nightclub) is the story of a ghostly, devilish dress. It feels like an old ‘70s portmanteau horror movie, but only stretches to two stories, both of which feature a red dress that may well come from hell. Or at least the consumerist version of that – which is an outdated department store in the height of the post-Christmas sales. Yes, consumerism is hell, people – that’s the big story here.
Jean-Baptiste buys it first and sees her date go badly, her washing machine explode (that happens a lot), her arm cut and a dog attak her legs, before things really get out of hand.
Said dress then transfers to plumber Brill vis a charity shop (it’s his stag night) and his fiancé Babs – an always reliable Squires. More horrific mayhem ensues.
Strickland clearly has affection for this genre, but what he seems to be doing here is closer to pastiche rather than homage. And with the addition of the Barratt and Oram double act (again, Wheatley alumni) he gets increasingly closer to parody. There are moments that are genuinely funny – the sales pitches of the department store staff amuse – but if Strickland really wants to play this for laughs, then it’s a very rarefied laugh he’s going for. And one he barely scores with.
Awash with a strong sense of the early 1970s UK – from prototype answering machines to store fashion catalogues to montages of life on the streets to a strange (and unfunny) obsession with the repeating of lengthy phone numbers and washing machine functionality both, it’s unclear whether these driving motifs in Strickland’s film stem from genuine affection or some sort of misfired send-up. Ultimately, this is a mix of faux-giallo and misjudged comedy. (In many ways, it’s more Suspiria that Luca Guadagnino’s recent remake of Suspira – but not in a good way.)
It would be nice to see Strickland – and Wheatley for that matter – leave behind their fascination with that decade and become the interesting contemporary filmmakers they both threaten to be.
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