Published on January 21st, 2020 | by Keegan Barker0
In a cinematic climate dominated by Disney and other bloated studios, A24 Studios stands out as a studio that still makes films for film connoisseurs.
Recently, I saw one of A24’s newest films: In Fabric. I could call it a horror movie, but that is far too simplistic. It has its horrific moments, but it also has dramatic, suspenseful, and even hilarious moments peppered throughout an otherworldly exploration of consumerism, sexuality, and egotism.
On paper, the film’s plot sounds like a schlock masterpiece; it’s about a dress that kills people. However, the film brings a lot more texture and dimension to the concept. The film follows three separate characters who all encounter the same red dress, either through purchase or other means. While in their respective possession, each character suffers from physical and psychological stresses. These descents into madness are punctuated with surreal sequences and images involving numerous side characters, each of whom exhibit quirkiness, humour, and mystery.
The most striking aspect of the film is its storytelling and style. In short, the film is strongly reminiscent of David Lynch’s films, which often feature surreal imagery and sequences, as well as non-linear storytelling; Lynch’s films feel like dreams, both good and bad. In Fabric differs from some of Lynch’s style in that the plot is linear, with clearly defined beginnings, middles, and endings. The movie is split up into multiple short stories, and each of them are presented as traditional narratives which are enhanced with surrealism. These sequences are haunting and horrifying, and it is never explained if these sequences are real, or only in the minds of the characters.
In addition to the horror and surreal aspects, In Fabric also sports numerous instances of comedy. Reflecting on the British setting of the film, the comedic dialogue is wry and even sardonic at times. I found myself laughing at these moments, but I couldn’t help but think it had more to do with the tone shifting from tense, to surreal, to humourous in a manner of minutes. I would call this a downside, as the balance between horror, surrealism, and comedy is different in the first and second half. While this would work in a proper anthology film, I felt that the stories were far too similar to have such different tonal presentations.
The film has a timeless look in its presentation of characters, locations, and interactions. From the limited info I could find about the film, it seems that the film takes place in the early 1980’s but, unlike most period pieces, the time period is not an important aspect of the film, except when the influence of 80s films is seen. This is most evident in the film’s amazing score, credited to Cavern of Anti-Matter. The soundtrack is a beautiful and haunting arrangement of synthesizer music, with a strong connection to late 70s and early 80s horror soundscapes, such as those from The Exorcist and Halloween. Cavern of Anti-Matter’s soundtrack really elevates the dreaminess and tension of the film, and the soundtrack is easily my favourite aspect of the film.
Due to the Lynchian nature of the film’s plot and style, it is difficult to comprehend what the film was trying to articulate in terms of themes. So far as I could tell, In Fabric is trying to touch on the faults of a consumerist society, and how we can be coerced into adopting products and lifestyles which can have a negative impact on our lives. The dress in the film stands as a ghost of consumer culture, forever haunting our collective psyche. Consumerism constantly tells us that we are too fat; too old; unloved and unwanted, and that we can only correct our physical and emotional faults with products to inflate our sense of worth. We are meant to feel that we can buy our way into being sexier, and more desirable, but at what cost? While we often pay for our rising ego with time and money, the film’s characters pay their dues in blood. The greatest tragedy of the film is that our three affected characters do not deserve their downfalls. They are ordinary people, coerced and manipulated into fulfilling their destinies in a capitalist world. They are us.
In Fabric does an excellent job of creating an atmospheric and dreamy horror film, with the odd change in tone, here and there. The acting is great, and the music elevates the dreaminess of the film. While it did not receive a wide release, it is a film I would whole-heartedly recommend looking for at an independent theatre, or for home release. Ultimately, In Fabric is not a movie for the masses, but it would certainly appeal to and entertain anyone with an affinity for David Lynch, and the surreal.