Peter Strickland operates at the more lunatic fringe of British cinema, in the best way. His latest, In Fabric, tells of a demonic red dress – according to the catalogue, it’s The Ambassadorial Function Dress – purchased in a sale at Denltey & Soper’s department store in “Thames Valley on Thames”.
There, the shop girl speaks in a delicious dialect of Fenella Fielding creaminess, each purchase requiring “your locus of residence followed by the numbers of your telephone…”. There’s something sinister going on with the mannequins, too.
Marianne Jean-Baptiste (great to see her back in a British film) is Sheila, the woman who buys the dress for a date in a Greek restaurant, but it gives her a nasty rash before sending her washing machine into melt down.
Set in a twilight world that could be the 70s or synthed-up 80s, we’re never sure, In Fabric has a Tales of the Unexpected timbre before it moves on, with the dress, to another character, Reg Speaks, a local washing machine engineer on a stag night before his marriage to the headstrong Babs (Hayley Squires, excellent).
The film is funny, in a biting, vicious, weird way, and quite brilliant in parts, but it never quite comes together or finds a heart. It’s oppressive, misanthropic, a little smug, even, and could do with some room to breathe before the rapacious climax.
But it’ll make you think twice about what’s going on in the staff room of your local department store. And should put you off the Sales for life.