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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
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Phil de Semlyen
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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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