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Marianne Jean-Baptiste works on a haunted dress with her sewing machine
Photograph: SuppliedIn Fabric haunts Australian homes via this Capitol streaming event

Meet the man behind ‘In Fabric’: the horror film about a killer dress

We chat to director Peter Strickland, whose film ‘In Fabric’ is the haunted-dress horror on everyone's lips

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

If you’ve seen ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ or ‘The Duke of Burgundy’, you’ll know that Peter Strickland makes films that draw you in, enveloping you with strange soundscapes and gloriously off-kilter worlds. His latest, haunted-dress horror ‘In Fabric’ could be his best – and most immersive – yet. He talks department stores, terrifying mannequins and casting ‘Secrets & Lies’ actor Marianne Jean-Baptiste.

Is it fair to say ‘In Fabric’ was inspired by reluctant childhood trips to department stores? 
‘You’ve hit the nail on the head – that is the film. It’s a child’s perspective. When I was a kid I used to love watching people shopping, but I was terrified of the mannequins. They all had really long fingers. Those department stores always felt like they were out of another time.’

Your store, Dentley & Soper, seems to whisper. How did you create that effect?
‘We got seven women in a semi-circle in the studio and they improvised. I fell asleep to it, which was a good sign. Working in a shop is a performance. I used to work at TGI Fridays in Reading and you’d all have to say “Good morning! Welcome to TGI Fridays.” It’s an extension of that.’

 Credit: Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Have you seen ‘Office Space’? It has a great send-up of TGI Fridays.
Have you seen ‘Office Space’? It has a great send-up of TGI Fridays. ‘Someone has compared this film with “Office Space” and I really want to see it. “The Office” was a massive influence. That, and autonomous sensory meridian response videos on YouTube. I’d watch hours of them, where it’s just people whispering and turning catalogue pages. They have a fetishistic quality.’

How do you feel about giallo comparisons?
‘I’m not offended by them – I love giallo, it just wasn’t an influence. My fascination with department stores is the same as my fascination with giallo: I can take or leave the murder; it’s the production design, the lighting, the flamboyance and artifice. That’s what I was after.’

It’s great to see Marianne Jean-Baptiste in the film. How was it working with her?
‘I absolutely adored working with her – she’s such a great actor. Toby Jones suggested her to me and she really embraced the material, thank God. I wasn’t so aware of her work because I’m not a social realist fan. I have to stress, I’m not against social realism. I just prefer trash, basically.’

‘In Fabric’ opens Fri Jun 28. Read our review here

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