Beauty is Pain [Part 2]: Killer Fashion in Horror Movies
The old adage ‘Beauty is Pain’ is definitely alive and well in many genre films that depict the pitfalls women are exposed to in a pursuit to be ‘beautiful’. We’ve explored the brutal beauty tropes in five Horror movies and now it’s time to move to killer fashion. Whether it’s the revenge of fast fashion on those who consume it or the possession of a garment that torments it’s wearer, Horror does love to see clothing do some damage.
For part two of ‘Beauty is Pain’ here are five genre films that deal with women’s killer clothing and the terror of the fashion industry.
Slaxx – Fast Fashion Frenzy (dir. Elza Kephart, 2020)
It’s launch night at Canadian Cotton Clothiers, a clothing company that spouts an eco friendly and humanitarian sentiment in its slogans but is actually just another evil manufacturing company. They are ready to present their brand new fashion invention to the world, the Super Shapers, jeans that are ‘one size’ and designed to conform to all body sizes. Fast fashion and the need to have the latest and trendiest clothing item are satirised here when these sentient jeans begin to rampage the store and brutally murder those locked inside.
The Neon Demon – Monstrous Modelling (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016)
The modelling industry can be brutal, with cutthroat competition and consistent pressure from the fashion world to be young, thin and beautiful. This is something Jesse discovers as she tries to make it as an aspiring model and soon finds her success is envied and eventually leads to her brutal downfall. The extreme measures the other models go to in order to be at the top of the chain just demonstrate how intense and barbaric the industry can be. It’s an aesthetic treat of a film with some shallow exploration of how we are shown beauty and how women are pitted against each other to be the one that stands out in a room and to fulfill the expectation the mostly male presences put on them.
In Fabric – A Blood Red Gown (dir. Peter Strickland, 2018)
This giallo inspired Horror Comedy explores how we often look to fashion to change our feelings about ourselves. Sheila is at a low point, recently divorced, chastised at work and uncomfortable in her own home, she sets out to find a garment that will not only be great for her upcoming date but hopefully fix everything else in her life. Unfortunately for Sheila, this artery red dress is not merely fabric and stitching, it’s a demonically possessed garment that can move on its own and has deadly intentions. With rhythmic and cult-like dialogue that takes on a chanting and haunting tempo when combined with the beautiful score, In Fabric is a playfully devious look at one destructive piece of fashion.
The Red Shoes – Deadly Dancing Shoes (dir. Kim Yong-gyun, 2005)
Based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale that inspired the 1948 film this Korean retelling of The Red Shoes is a brutal fairytale that doesn’t shy away from the gore. When Sun-jae discovers an abandoned pair of bright pink heels she sees no harm in claiming them as her own. She soon comes to regret this as she begins to fall into nightmarish hallucinations and finds herself incapable of getting rid of the offending footwear. What starts as an empowered feeling for Sun-jae soon turns to envy between her and her daughter and then descends into deaths that are linked to the heels. There’s folklore involving ballerinas and some gruesome foot removal.
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II – Possessed Prom Dress (dir. Bruce Pittman, 1987)
It’s prom night at Hamilton High and Mary Lou Maloney is about to be crowned queen when, in an act of revenge against her cheating, her date Billy drops a stink bomb on her that ignites her dress and burns her alive. Thirty years later, prom queen hopeful Vicki Carpenter finds a trunk filled with Mary Lou’s old formal wear and accidentally unleashes the vengeful spirit. It’s a tongue in cheek 80’s Horror that has very little to do with the first Prom Night but definitely takes the possessed clothing and accessories to the extreme with multiple characters becoming possessed by the former prom queen. Sexuality, splatter and cape killings, what more could you want?