Just when you thought you’d seen everything the horror genre had to offer (thank you, Ari Aster!), along comes this little off-the-rack number, “In Fabric” (A24).
Frumpy bank teller Sheila (the underutilized Marianne Jean-Baptiste), separated from her husband and living with her son Vince (Jaygann Ayeh), scours the lonely-hearts personal ads for love. Her own ad has received multiple replies and she has arranged some dates. But one look in her closet, combined with the enticing (and spooky and retro) TV ads for Dentley and Soper’s department store, leads Sheila into the grasp of persuasive salesclerk Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed).
Once Luckmoore convinces Sheila to try on the one-of-a-kind red dress (a color described in the catalog as “artery”), in the most hilariously twisted version on international sales-speak, her fate is sealed. What Sheila doesn’t know is that the dress is part of a fatal satanic ritual involving menstruating mannequins, painful and ugly skin rashes, damnation curses, violently haywire washing machines, German Shepherd attacks, and a hovering and smothering frock.
Even if Sheila doesn’t survive, the red dress does, making its next appearance at the bachelor party for appliance repairman Reg (Leo Bill). A mate of his has purchased it for him at a second-hand shop and Reg is forced wear it at his party. Nothing goes right for him after that.
Reg’s hard-ass boss is pissed about not having been invited to the party. The red dress destroys Reg and fiancée Babs’ (Hayley Squires) washing machine. Reg’s repair of the machine, a violation of his work code, almost costs him his job. The dress smothers Reg and Babs’ bird. And in a terrifying conclusion, the red dress has its way with Reg, Babs and the customers shopping at Dentley and Soper’s.
If none of this sounds especially funny, it’s because most of the humor is relegated to sequences involving (queer?) bank managers Clive (Steve Oram) and Stash (Julian Barratt), who appear in both halves of the movie. Whether they are grilling Sheila over workplace and private details or insultingly turning Reg down for a loan, the scenes certainly add a degree of levity.
The final reveal, involving a trip via dumbwaiter to the Dentley and Soper’s sub-basements, is the kind of thing that Rod Serling and the creators of Black Mirror would appreciate. For those looking for a horror movie with something extra sewn into the lining, “In Fabric” should fit nicely.