I dodged all glimpses of In Fabric’s trailer, Peter Strickland follow-up to his psychological dramas The Duke of Burgundy and Berberian Sound Studio, when it debuted a few days ago. A SIFF screening packed on a Friday night for the new A24 thriller demonstrated a broad humor and unease that lands on the horror edge of camp. In Fabric takes a laughable premise–a red, seductive dress eventually kills each person who wears it–and transforms it into an unsettling spiritual reignition of Dario Argento’s Suspiria as the witches take on retail sacrifice to replace their failed dance sorcery.
Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Sheila, the unlucky purchaser of the demon dress, is as baffled by the mysterious dress happenings as she is by the repeatedly pitiful dating pool for a bank clerk in her fifties. As she hears mysterious, rhythmic happenings in the closet, she is incredulous about her crimson stalker; but as she tenuously clasps her dates arms while dancing, she repeats how “hard it is to make friends here,” speaking to loneliness that only a shopping bag could fill. Baptiste is an easy comedic and dramatic champion in a horror show in her own wardrobe.
Fatma Mohamed as Miss Luckmoore, an overly attentive, cryptic salestactic spewing associate at the spooky department store, delivers the comedic performance of the year with a creep factor that turns her exotic, alien physicality into performance art. The way she will emotionlessly stare into her customer’s soul until she breaches Pennywise- to Miss Trunchbull-esque intensity.
The overlapping frames, bizarre cut scenes, eccentric cast of loons and brilliant character actors–including an unsettling duo of bank managers and a bitchy Gwendoline Christie dead set to break Sheila’s spirit. Avoid the trailer; there’s nothing in there you need to see and may ruin some stellar imagery and energy. This will release this autumn, and I’m eager to revisit this bizarre little universe.