★★★★½ - STUFF
- Why you've never seen anything like this 1970s-set comedy horror -
We're in London, sometime in the 1970s.
Recently divorced Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is out, maybe looking for a few new items for her wardrobe as she flings herself into the slow-motion humiliations of dating via newspaper classified ads – think Tinder, but with stamps and envelopes – when she happens upon a truly swell little frock in a department store somewhere way up town. The dress is in a shade of red described in the catalogue as "Artery", which kinda sets the tone for what is to come.
After an exchange of hysterically gnomic inscrutability with the store's chilly assistant manager, the deal is done. Sheila takes her purchase home to her thunderously indifferent son and his obnoxious-to-the-point-of-caricature girlfriend. And then, as the previews love to say, all bloody hell breaks out.
The dress, it transpires, is some sort of possessed remnant of a demonic cult. Whether or not it is a cult of death or fertility is hard to say. Director Peter Strickland seems happy to have a dollar each way. And with the cult's rituals mainly being voiced by aforementioned assistant manager – complete with all the requisite moaning, writhing and incantations the genre demands – I don't reckon it even matters too much.
All of which could easily be a description of some of the worst straight-to-the-sale-bin drivel you have ever sat through in your life. But In Fabric is not that film.
I'd be lying if I said I'd "never seen anything like it". But I'd have to dig into the back catalogues of Nic Roeg (Don't Look Now), Panos Cosmatos (Mandy) and, especially Dario Argento (Suspiria) to give you examples. Strickland proved with Berberian Sound Studio (2012) that he is a horror-stylist and choreographer of dislocating mayhem for the ages. He infuses In Fabric with sequences of daft carnage that run the gamut from hilarious to horrifying and back again.
There is a genuine 1970s aesthetic at play here, with kaleidoscope filters, crash zooms and Moog synths all being thrown about with such joyous abandon it's as though the last 50 years never happened and Rome's Cinecittà Studios are still turning out the films that defied and then defined the psychological horror genre.
Helping immeasurably is the score, from Holger Zapf, and Tim Gane of Stereolab, recording as "Cavern of Antimatter", that perfectly captures the woozy menace of the best of the films of the era.
Try to imagine – and you have my undying respect if you can – the cast of Are You Being Served? putting on The Exorcist. That's In Fabric.
And, if any of what you've just read makes it sound like something you want to see, then, trust me, you do.
- Graeme Tuckett, STUFF
In Fabric is now playing at Light House Cuba!