Immaterial Girl

In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2018)

Remember when the 1970s was the decade that taste forgot? Thirty years of Tarantino pastiche have summoned the visuals back, and it has been embraced by a generation of British horror directors, including Peter Strickland, whose Duke of Burgundy left me indifferent. There’s a mix here of Dennis Wheatley and Spearhead from Space and Don’t Look Now and Hammer and God help us Are You Being Served?. And Dario Argento, although this film is more rosso than giallo. It can’t be present day, because blind dating is committed via newspapers rather than apps, and money is sent through airtubes in department stores, but not all the of the phones are rotary dial. And there isn’t any racism, despite the position of the Black British heroine.

Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) treats herself to a red dress in a bizarre department store run by circumlocutory women and a loquacious man, and this dress seems to be as sinister as the people who sell it. It has a life of its own, and will find its way from victim to victim. To my taste, this left the film a little chopped in half — it needed a third story, more than it needed explanations or catharsis. We progress from one manner of mannered speech to another manner, although you certainly get plenty of script for your money. Perhaps I need more tolerance.

It also seems that Julian Barratt has been appointed the latest hardest working actor as he attempts to steal the film as half of a comedy but sinister gay couple/branch manager.

And there lies the rub — it isn’t funny enough, it isn’t scary enough, it doesn’t even quite feel like comedy horror. There’s something to be said for the horrors of capitalism and the putting of fetish in commodity fetishism, but like too much of Tarantino, I think the director is just playing.

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