Tribeca Film Festival 2019: 'In Fabric' is Terrifically Sewn Together

An atmospheric horror-comedy with classic schlock value.
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Pardon the pun, but In Fabric feels like it’s cut from the same cloth as classic giallo fare. The emphasis on color along with the euphoric sound design recall what feels like a forgotten era within the horror genre. Even the opening sequence makes watching the film in theaters seem like a retro screening. As a film, In Fabric isn’t entirely stitched together properly. However, it’s still applaudable thanks to its craftsmanship as well as its unorthodox premise.

The story involves a dress that curses and leaves an imprint on anyone who tries it on. Its victims include a single mother named Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) along with Reg (Leo Bill) and his fiancee Babs (Hayley Squires). In addition, the dress comes from a mysterious cult that influences the townsfolk who shop at their store.

Between the two main storylines, the best one is easily Marianne Jean-Baptiste’s story. One reason is because she takes a character that feels like an archetypal, “concerned victim” role and gives it plenty of depth. Rather than overplay Sheila’s paralytic fear, she channels her constant state of panic through burning curiosity and acerbic humor. Truthfully, the film would’ve been better served if it revolved entirely around her.

Of course, that’s no disrespect to Leo Bill and Hayley Squires. They do a fine job with the material they’re given but their storyline becomes a bit too drawn out. As a result, their climax ends up being this slow cop out with little payoff. Thankfully, the filmmaking aesthetics amend that slight flaw.

As previously mentioned, the movie is visually stunning. It consistently uses the color red which creates a ravish mood while acting as a signal of doom for our main characters. Granted, the antagonistic dress is red hence the color being omnipresent, but the unsettling atmosphere still remains effective. By having the dress move on its own and concocting ways to murder its victims, the film crafts together a sense of doom while embracing its far fetched storyline.

A film about a dress that kills people may sound quite ridiculous. But in the hands of director/writer Peter Strickland, In Fabric is an effective shocker that still embraces its camp value. Despite its flawed story structure, the actors manage to hold their respective storylines together. However, Marianne Jean-Baptiste makes her character’s story even better thanks to her effortless performance. In Fabric may have some missing stitches but the dress still fits perfectly.

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