Circle Cinema celebrated Art House Day by playing “In Fabric,” a horror movie about a killer dress.
Last Wednesday, Sept. 18, was Art House Theater day. To celebrate, theaters across America and Canada had special screenings of several art house films. One of these films was Peter Strickland’s 2018 horror-comedy “In Fabric,” shown in advance of its December 2019 U.S. release. Local independent theater Circle Cinema participated in the event by showing this film.
The film centers around an ominous department store with an incredibly eerie saleswoman (Fatma Mohamed) who sells a middle-aged divorcee (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) a red dress. The dress then moves between two more characters, causing horrifying results for all. Almost every scene in the film is unforgettable. Nothing is off limits for Strickland: gore, sexual taboos, noise to break your eardrums and even an intense game of Sorry.
One important point must be made: a dress isn’t scary. In fact, the film in general is surprisingly unscary for a horror movie. The tone of the film is much better described as unnerving. The employees of the department store eerily beckon with their hands to shoppers at the beginning of each business day. Throughout the film, short interjections of seemingly random visual collages interrupt the plot, often ended by an eerie noise and mannequin’s hand. A commercial for the department store is also shown several times throughout the film, each time becoming more distorted and sinister.
“In Fabric” also incorporates humor throughout its two hours run time. The film ends in a store-wide brawl started by a classic slapstick-style escalation of violence. Fatma Mohamed’s performance is the highlight of the comedy; she delivers cryptically poetic lines to all of her customers. Leo Bill also delivers a hilarious performance as an insipid washing machine repairman, literally boring his peers into a stupor with his jargon.
All of these unique elements come together to forge an incredibly interesting experience. The tone of the film is far from consistent, but this is part of what gives it its charm. A grand explanation for the events of the film is never explicitly given. Many scenes within it seem like grand plot reveals, but are never extended upon; the movie is a series of dead ends. The end of the film offers a satisfactory closure to the narrative, but does so without spoiling the enticing sense of uncertainty throughout the movie.
The movie avoids any central theme. The dress seems to represent romantic failure and the viciousness of consumerism simultaneously. The various symbols and recurring motifs also add many intertwining ideas, all wrapped around the ongoing slasher story.
Overall, “In Fabric” seems more concerned with possessing a certain aesthetic than it is with possessing complex themes. Or, rather, interpretation of its imagery is left up to the viewer, letting them come up with their own “meaning” of the film. This artistic philosophy is in line with the general ethos of art house film, making it an absolutely perfect choice for celebrating this important event.
“In Fabric” will be released by A24 for normal showing in US theaters starting Dec. 6, 2019.