TIFF Review: Strickland’s ‘In Fabric’ is smart Italian horror homage

In Fabric

Editor’s Note: Vanyaland’s Nick Johnston is north of the border all week long for the Toronto International Film Festival; click here for our continued coverage from the fest and also check out our official preview.

The opening shot of Peter Strickland’s In Fabric tells you everything you need to know about the film and whether or not it’s for you: A perfectly manicured pale white hand flips open an ornate switchblade and uses it to open a box, which reveals a blood-red dress within. That dress has ruined and will ruin lives, and it’ll only consume more as the film runs on. Similar to the aesthetic ethos to something like Let the Corpses Tan, the director fashioned In Fabric as an enticing tribute to Italian filmmakers like Bava and Argento with an undercurrent of the specifically English consumerist critique of someone like Bruce Robinson providing a necessary twist here. It’s much more than empty homage, which you can see in any number of Italian horror knock-offs, and approaches something more intense and interesting.

Strickland has always had a strong command of his particular visual talents, and this may be his ultimate expression of them as they’re the entire reason the film is able to work as well as it does. He’s able to make a couple of scenes absolutely harrowing just based on a series of contrasts — a hard-fought board game battle while, down in the basement, a laundry machine is slowly starting to go haywire — and his work as a humorist has never been better.

This is a very funny film, which I think might stun some people used to the tonal seriousness of his prior work (though Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy had their moments, this is consistently broad and humorous throughout), but that comes at the sacrifice of some of the film’s pathos, which I didn’t totally mind at least in this context. In Fabric is an enigmatic and interesting film, one which I think’ll merit some further consideration upon its release.

Follow Nick Johnston on Twitter @onlysaysficus. Featured image courtesy of TIFF.