The premise of a cursed red dress that kills people sounds like something out of an 80s b-movie. The same concept handled by British auteur Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio, 2012) and distributed by A24 immediately becomes fascinating and intriguing.
In Fabric combines the self-awareness connected to this idea, adds some typical art-house filmmaking from Strickland, frames it around Suspiria-like aesthetics and tops it all off with social commentary about consumerism.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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My review is also available on IMDb – In Fabric (2019)
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For the past few months, I was reading articles about In Fabric – now available on VOD after its theatrical release in England – and I was getting progressively more excited to watch it. On top of that, I consider the British filmmaker to be a fascinating figure (Berberian Sound Studio is my second favourite horror film of 2012; the disturbing dramas he directed are wonderful works of art). To put it simple, I was expecting In Fabric to be up there with Climax and Midsommar as my favourite horror movie of 2019 so far.
However, what I got out of it was an extremely frustrating experience that I don’t believe was intended as such. In Fabric is a very average movie: not in the sense that it’s your typical middle-of-the-road horror flick (it couldn’t be further away from that!), but in terms of the sum of its positives and negatives. This is a film that features some impressive, masterful aspects but it intertwines them with either poorly executed scenes or confusingly shallow moments.
Visual execution and cinematography, highly inspired by Argento’s filmography and 80s euro-horror, are really effective due to the meticulous effort that was put to capture the feeling of that era in horror history. Yet, most of the dialogues in In Fabric are filmed in basic shot-reverse-shot technique, which makes them feel stale and boring. The editing choices, in particular, are jarring to me: the transition from one scene to the next is always violent and breaks the flow of the movie. It seems like an intentional choice, but it only makes the film worse.
The lack of any traditional narrative (the movie is split in two halves, with different main characters for each part) could work in the movie’s favour if the message about consumerism (and the mockery of those who mock consumerism) was delivered consistently. Instead, In Fabric introduces quite a few sub-plots that don’t seem to have any connection with the main goal of the picture.
A few sub-messages (i.e. comments the movie makes about society that come second to the critique on consumerism) are quite clear and clever, such as the vapidity of the fashion industry. However, there are others that either don’t make any sense or are completely lost on me, such as the recurring image of washing machines and the insistence on unhealthy sexuality.
Aside from the overall atmosphere and tone of In Fabric, the first 30 minutes of the movie as well as the bonkers ending are genuinely masterful: the beginning and the end of this film are perfectly executed, insanely creepy and off-putting, very much thought-provoking. Overall, though, this British experimental film feels too ambitious for its own good: both the visual representation and the social commentary are mostly lost due to overabundance of random inputs and scenes that, instead of being part of a puzzle, feel more like extra pieces that shouldn’t be in the box.
You might have notice that, for this review, I didn’t talk about the plot (because there is none) and I approached the film from a more subjective standpoint: this is because an experimental film that doesn’t have a clear structure is nearly impossible to review objectively. In Fabric has some undeniable qualities and an equal number of objective flaws, but most of the movie feels very personal, abstract and outside of conventions, therefore the experience you might get out of it will highly depend on your taste and personal preference.
I’m still extremely curious to see what Peter Strickland will do next, and I would strongly recommend his other movies as long as you like art-house horror and experimental dramas. Also, I want to revisit In Fabric before the end of the year to see whether the movie is really not meant for my taste or my viewing experience might improve from knowing what I’m watching.
In Fabric 5/10
If you love Strickland, get a copy of his films here:
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