Peter Strickland’s latest pseudo-psychedelic nightmare come to life takes a while to sink in, but once it does, it’s the sort of movie you want to go back and watch again. When I was first watching it, I was captivated by the main story – which follows newly divorced single mom Marianne Jean-Baptiste as she unknowingly buys a cursed dress – but was also entirely unsure what was going on. It made the experience sometimes frustrating, because while the movie is filled with gorgeous and haunting shots, I was having trouble making sense of the main narrative. By the halfway point there’s a sharp turn and I found myself getting even further away from the movie’s thesis, but in retrospect, I can see how it’s essentially a darkly comedic evisceration of the cult of retail capitalism presented as an homage to 1970s Italian genre cinema. Upon a second viewing, I was able to find much more to appreciate, including Jean-Baptiste’s uncompromising performance, as well as how Strickland masters the art of slow-build suspense out of mundane situations by amplifying the anxieties that come with passive aggressive interactions among people who can barely tolerate each other. It’s ultimately a confusing, muddled, and thrillingly pretentious black comedy that overstuffs its narrative and ends up going on too long, but has cathartic power for anyone who has ever had the displeasure of working a busy holiday season in retail.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)