Over the past decade, A24 Films has established itself as one of the most boundary-pushing producers and distributors of genre cinema, which includes films like Enemy, Under the Skin, and The Witch, all of which will go down as some of the best horror films of the decade. Not all of their efforts are certified successes, as films like Tusk and Slice failed to impress audiences and critics alike. Their latest distribution effort, In Fabric, continues the trend of delivering audiences an ambitious and unconventional horror story and, like much of their catalog, will be highly praised by some audiences for its bizarre narrative that is dripping with style while others will grow frustrated by its absurdity.
Single mother Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is struggling with her loneliness and from the tense relationship she has with her son, leading her to the classified ads in hopes of finding love. When she earns a date, she purchases what appears to be the perfect red dress from an eccentric employee at a department store, only for the dress to cause an unexplained rash. This kicks off a series of unexplainable occurrences related to the dress, confirming that Sheila got much more than she bargained for when attempting to add an impressive ensemble to her closet.
In Fabric can absolutely be described as a "movie about a killer dress," yet it is both so much more than that and nothing more than that at the same time. From the opening credits, it's clear that director Peter Strickland is aiming to recreate a very specific point in time in the history of horror, mirroring both the aesthetics and performances of European horror films from the '70s. The cinematography conveys such a deep red tone on the dress that it feels as though it will begin to bleed off the screen itself, wrapping up the audience in a wave of crimson. The characters replicate the embrace of such exaggerations, with some characters being deeply human and empathetic while others are elevated beyond any sense of belief.
Much like his previous efforts Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy, Strickland crafts another experience that feels nothing like any of its peers and escapes any sort of conventional genre definitions. His blend of humor, horror, and absurdity defies classification with a wholly unique look and feel. As the journey of In Fabric unfolds, Strickland takes audiences to entirely unexpected realms, making for a compelling adventure unlike any other horror movie this year.
Some audiences will surely revel in the film's style, though just because it's an entirely unique experience doesn't mean its a universally successful affair. If the film's aesthetics don't entrance you, In Fabric will likely be a miss. The heightened look and tone of the film, which is made evident immediately, reflects the heightened reality of the narrative itself. Viewers will have to suspend all of their disbelief to buy into the concept of some sort of supernaturally nefarious dress, as the storyline delves into a series of otherworldly scenarios. The concept, tone, and aesthetics will surely win over select audiences immediately, yet it never really evolves from those potentially unsuccessful elements, which could make for an arduous endeavor to other audiences.
Keeping in the tradition of previous A24 efforts, In Fabric will go down as being one of the most unique genre films of the year and, while its enchanting style is sure to win over some audiences, those hoping for a more substantial narrative will feel hung out to dry.
Rating: 3 out of 5
In Fabric lands in select theaters on December 6th and On Demand on December 10th.
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