(director/writer: Peter Strickland; cinematographer: Ari Wegner; editor: Matyas Fekete; music: Cavern of Anti-Matter; cast: Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Sheila), Leo Bill (Reg Speaks), Fatma Mohamed (Miss Luckmoore), Gwendoline Christie (Gwen), Hayley Squires (Babs), Jaygann Ayeh (Vince), Julian Barratt (Stash), Steve Oram (Clive), Terry Bird (Bananas Brian), Richard Bremmer (Mr. Lundy), Sidse Babett Knudsen (Jill); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Andy Starke; BBC Films/A24 Release; 2018-UK)

“It’s a mesmerizing black comedy, made to give you the creeps.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Brit eccentric auteur Peter Strickland (“The Duke of Burgundy”/”Katalin Varga”) takes on the fashion world and doesn’t spare the viewer from his creepy nightmare. Strickland has been inspired by the Italian giallo horror movies of Dario Argento from the 1960s and 1970s. 

The recently divorced bank teller Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) lives with her weirdo painter teenager son, Vince (Jaygann Ayeh). He dates the model Gwen (Gwendoline Christie), someone who annoys mom. After placing a dating ad, Sheila looks to get a beautiful dress to wear on the date. She finds through a TV ad a strange shop offering a unique red dress and orders it custom-made from the Slavic-accented sales clerk, Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed), who promises to get her the perfect dress sewn by her strange boss, Mr. Lundy (Richard Bremmer).

Sheila’s date doesn’t work, with no thanks to the rebellious dress. The dress feels strange on her, it gets a rash and the washing machine breaks when it’s cleaned. Then the dress magically sews itself back together. Furthermore, at a stag party Reg (Leo Bill) is forced to wear it.

It’s a
mesmerizing black comedy, made to give you the creeps. Its first half is a much better fit than its second. The second part covers the ill-suited couple–the meek Reg and the bossy Babs (Hayley Squires)– trying to comically make a go of it. The switch to the macabre is surreal. The comical elements stylishly parody Brit sex, consumerism and the wage system. It’s a film of great texture and color, a film whose In Fabric never stops spinning a weave with a sense of celebration for the off-beat.