ARROW FILMS (2021)
Director: Jill Gevargizian
Starring: Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant, Sarah McGuire, Millie Milan, Laura Kirk, Jennifer Seward
Jill Gevargizian’s The Stylist began life as a short film back in 2016 before a successful Kickstarter campaign helped the movie reach feature-length status. It follows Claire (Townsend), a hairstylist harboring a dark penchant and secret that involves some of her more interesting clients. Claire isn’t Michael Myers, however, nor Jason, Leatherface, or anyone similar - she’s Claire. A woman suffering from severe anxiety, someone with major confidence issues, and the burning need to simply have someone to confide in and bond with. When longtime client Olivia (Grant) pleads for Claire’s help to step in and save her wedding hair, Claire thinks she may have found the one.
Focusing on the psyche of the killer rather than simply the grisly crimes, The Stylist is a feminist horror that has plenty of style and enough substance to deliver an effective ride. The focus throughout is Claire, a hairstylist who enjoys hearing the stories of her client's day-to-day lives - some, though, are more intriguing than others and those people end up scalped and extremely...dead with their hair on display in Claire’s personal murder shrine. Najarra Townsend is excellent in the lead role, her performance as Claire allows us to feel for the character, we sympathize with her despite the moments where she gives in to urge and impulse and she’s able to also pull off a convincing killer to boot. By showing us more of Claire’s mental state and behaviours, it allows us to feel more when certain events occur within the movie - whether shock, sadness, or even repulsion - and, in the horror genre, this is obviously vital to the success or failure of a movie. The gory moments, when they do happen, are well-executed and look grisly enough for the bloodhounds out there - the opening sequence especially is uncomfortable yet somehow magnetic as well, it really hooks you in. The cinematography only adds to the horror of what occurs on-screen during The Stylist’s yuckier moments - there are no sudden flashes of lightning to brighten the surroundings, no strategically placed light fittings, it looks and feels as grim as the on-screen events and that’s only a positive.
The score, though, is at times meandering. There were a few occurrences early in the movie where I wondered whether the music fit the sequences, however, the further we get into The Stylist, the more the music became intrinsic to proceedings. The story itself is engaging and well-written with only a few hiccups along the way but, overall, The Stylist is a very solid and impactful effort. It’s sharp, sexy, and cuts like scissors to the scalp.
February 4th 2021