Tag Archives: witch

In Fabric

2 Jan

‘In Fabric’: That’s a killer dress you’ve got on, but the film around it unravels as we watch

 

tmp-in fab

“In Fabric,” the latest arthouse horror offering from British writer-director Peter Strickland (“The Duke of Burgundy,” 2014, and “Berberian Sound Studio,” 2012), hems hard and long on its eerie, immersive style, but remains elusive when it comes to the what and why. Centering on a bloodthirsty “artery red” dress with supernatural powers and the department store staff/cult that sends it out into the world, “In Fabric” has the vibe of “Suspiria” sans the foreboding grip – because there we have an inkling of what the cult is up to.

Like the recent “Waves,” “In Fabric” is told in two parts. In the first segment we meet Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a bank teller and lonely single mother in her 50s looking to get her groove back after a divorce. A trip to a high-end boutique department store (think Lord & Taylor or Saks with a perfume wisp of the occult) nets Sheila the “risqué” red dress that she’s steered to by the freaky S&M head sales associate (Fatma Mohamed). At night, strange things go on: the dress floats menacingly about the house; Sheila, ever wandering herself, peers thorough a crack in a door to watch her son (Jaygann Ayeh) perform cunnilingus on his girlfriend (Gwendoline Christie); and down at the department store, the coven gather round a redheaded mannequin and writhe in orgasmic ritual. 

There’s a lot of moody kink and a fantastic retro ’70s horror score by the techno group Cavern of Anti-Matter that helps bind the giallo homage together. Through paper clippings Sheila learns that the former wearer of the dress (the model in the catalog) died bizarrely (death by zebra, anyone?). Perhaps the scariest part of “In Fabric,” however, isn’t the killer dress but the higher-ups, white men who question their underlings’ intent and commitment constantly. In one scene, Sheila is called in by her superiors (comedians Steve Oram and Julian Barratt) who are concerned with the sincerity of her handshake and the amount of time she spends in the bathroom. It’s a shakedown of sorts in which the knife-twisting is all done with the “fuck you” politeness  demanded by British etiquette. In the latter chapter, a nerdy washing-machine repairman named Reg who dons the dress (Leo Bill) is humiliated by his ogre of a boss and pretty much everyone else, including Sheila’s managers, who pick him apart when he applies for a loan.

Themes of ritualistic consumerism and crowd mentality are embroidered in, but so ostentatiously and without satirical substance that they feel like cheap window dressing, especially when measured against George Romero’s great “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), which proves a much more devious and effective take on constant consumption. Even as plot developments trend toward the silly, Strickland remains focused on his spellbinding effect – and not enough can be said about the vulnerable, no-nonsense approach of Jean-Baptiste (of Mike Leigh’s “Secret and Lies”). When she’s on screen, she keeps the outré tale from unraveling. “In Fabric” is a unique experience best taken in with logic left at the door.

Suspiria

12 Jan

‘Suspiria’: The 1970s are raised from the grave by a sophisticated crew who’ll make you wince

 

Image result for suspiria

“Suspiria,” the remake of Dario Argento’s cultish 1977 European gothic of the occult operating within secret passages of a German school of ballet gets handled with care and extra visceral crunch by fellow Italian Luca Guadagnino. Guadagnino, regarded for his nuanced takes on such critically well-received works as “Call Me by Your Name” and “A Bigger Splash,” delves into the moodiness of the horror genre with bloody aplomb. Here he and writer David Kajganich take it deeper than Argento did by adding human layers and deeper suspenseful intrigue – and by allowing Tilda Swinton to play multiple roles, including as an elder gentleman who has scenes of full-frontal nudity (no penile prosthetics were hurt in the making of this film).

The performances are spot on. Swinton, as usual, is all in. The setting is inspired as well: 1977, the same year Argento’s signature work made it onto screens, and in West Berlin against the backdrop of the Iron Curtain and Cold War, with the Red Army and Baader-Meinhof gang in full swing. Anyone can go missing at any time, and there’s myriad possible culprits, the least obvious being a coven of witches. We catch up with a harried young American named Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz) who tells elderly physician Dr. Josef Klemperer (Swinton) that she’s pretty sure the ballet school she’s attending is run by witches. Shortly afterward, Patricia goes missing and Dr. Klemperer, wrestling with personal demons that root back to the Holocaust, begins to poke around and alert the police to strange doings. 

Meanwhile (and there is a lot here; the film is more than two and a half hours) the school receives a new American recruit who can dance like Salome, pleasing troupe grand dame Madame Blanc (a chain-smoking Swinton in her most recognizable countenance). New girl Susie (Dakota Johnson, fresh off “Bad Times at the El Royale”) is all alone in the world after “cutting ties” with her controlling Mennonite kin back in Ohio. Besides being a promising dancer, Susie may be the one to bear the great darkness of the coven’s ancestry. The mumbo-jumbo here doesn’t matter so much; Guadagnino’s “Suspiria” is more about ominous intrusions, eerie and immersive, and slow painful deaths that will make even the strongest wince while the ladies dishing out the meting from floors below cackle with glee. It’s an intoxicating brew right up to the gonzo Grand Guignol, when the use of red, gauzy filters help ameliorate the unrelenting gush of arterial spray. 

Guadagnino has said that he’s been wanting to make this “cover version” since he was 12. It’s unlikely that such a project ($20 million), even with such a cast and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke lending his talents, would ever gain a green light without such an accomplished auteur behind it. It doesn’t have the campy cult edge of Argento’s, but is a potent time capsule of an era that seems farther than it actually is. It’s also something of a feminist anthem. Those that run the Helena Markos School have absolute control of all within their cloistered realm. It’s a very safe place for a woman if you’re one of the indoctrinated, a chamber of horrors if you’re not. Men, for the most. are bothers, only worthy to serve as witness. It’s the mother here that’s all powerful – as with Argento, who capped “Suspiria” with “Inferno” in 1980 and 2007’s “Mother of Tears” (starring his now infamous daughter, Asia) and tagged the century-spanning witch-mythos “The Three Mothers” trilogy.

“Suspiria” is definitely not for all. Fans of Swinton, arthouse horror (think “The Witch” and “Heredity”) and the original will swoon. Those coming to see the film because of Guadagnino‘s earlier works will be in for a bloody shock.

The Sisterhood of Night

16 Apr

By Tom Meek

April 11, 2015  |  8:00am
<i>The Sisterhood of Night </i>

The misunderstood lives of teenage girls, ever so enigmatic and worrisome to adults, have manifested as a form of mythos in pop culture. Just consider the snarky, revealing panoply of The Craft, Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl andHeathers. You could add The Sisterhood of Night to the list, but due to its inability to plumb teen angst with any introspective sincerity, it’s unlikely to resonate with any bite over time.

The premise behind Sisterhood, based on the short story by Steven Millhauser (The Illusionist), is both rich and rife with prospect. Two friends have a falling out and form divergent societies—one the late night clutch of the film’s title, while the other founds a virtual online support group for outcast and abused girls. The brassier of the two frienemies, Marry Warren (Georgie Henley from the The Chronicles of Narnia), convenes the lot of handpicked and secretly initiated girls who zealously adhere to the vow of what happens in the sisterhood, stays in the sisterhood.

What exactly they do in the middle of the night out in the woods remains unclear for much of the film. We know they’re good at dodging their parents’ watchful eyes and sneaking out to the covert spot; what transpires there becomes the subject of much speculation by the residents of the small town of Kingston, N.Y., who, with all the modern technology at their fingertips, remain powerless to gain a glimmer into the goings-ons of their beloved daughters. Continue reading