I have always been afraid to go to a hair salon, with the same fear that some people have about going to the dentist. I have extremely thin, fine, and baby-like hair and no one ever seems to know what to do with it. In fact, some stylists even comment to that effect. So, Jill Gevargizian’s The Stylist gave me the chills right from the very first scene. Ultimately, the positive relationship between myself and the person behind me wielding the scissors is the only thing that keeps me in the chair. Finding a chatty person I can open up to, who understands me and gives me a chance for some armchair psychoanalyzing, is what makes it ok in the end. I’m glad I never ran across this particular beautician in real life!
Most people go to their hairdresser to get made over, to create a new “look”. In this case, it is the opposite. Claire (Najarra Townsend) does not have an identity of her own and she desperately needs to find one, no matter what she is driven to do in order to get it. Her obsessive longing is heartbreaking at times, making her a terrifying, yet very sympathetic psychopath.
What’s interesting is that Claire is beautiful but doesn’t seem to know it. She is accomplished at her job cutting hair, has gorgeous red locks of her own, and dresses very trendy. You could almost say dressed to kill? (sorry, I couldn’t resist) But her awkward social anxiety peeks through the polished-looking exterior and we can see how troubled she is. Her only comfort is her special locked trophy room, where her grotesque collection is kept. It is here, she can be herself, or better put, “her-selves”. She has many personas to pick from, in all different hair colors and styles.
Claire seems to have been ok with her unusual lifestyle until she meets Olivia. (Brea Grant) Olivia has the kind of life that Claire dreams of. When she is asked to do her wedding day hair, Claire starts to fall apart. Her carefully kept nocturnal activity now seems wrong and she tries to suppress it. This turns out to be a serious mistake and her character begins to spin out of control, all semblance of her normal facade rapidly crumbling.
Najarra Townsend was incredible and plays Claire perfectly; a vulnerable, delicate and broken individual, who tries on people like a small child tries on costumes to decide what to be when they grow up. She needs human contact but doesn’t know how to be comfortable around others. I believed the performance, it was so authentic and broke my heart a little, even when things got out of control.
What an aesthetically stunning film this was to watch. The tension was constant; almost a living thing hanging thickly in the air. The amazing neon color schemes in the production design from Sarah Sharp and the fantastic cinematography from Robert Patrick Stern were phenomenal. The practical SFX took my gore-loving breath away! There is a scene involving watching cartoons and eating pizza that freaked me out and changed my life! I will probably never want to do that particular activity again!
My only real disappointment in this film is wondering why Claire is so damaged. I wanted to see deeper into this lovely yet broken person. The Stylist was an award-winning horror short in the film festival circuit, and in this feature version of the same name, we don’t learn anything new about her. There had to be a terrible trauma to make such a seemingly normal human turn into a serial killer looking for a new personality. Because she is so uncomfortable in her own skin, she seeks out others to try on. What made her that way?
In the case of, the hair is greener on the other side, The Stylist rocks! This slasher story about a killer hairdresser is the neon-soaked nightmare you have been looking for! I loved this atmospheric and “hair-raising” film and I predict Jill Gevargizian is a woman in horror to look out for. The ending might be a bit predictable, but it is so horribly perfect, that it had to be! There was no other way to conclude this creative and unique horror masterpiece.
Jill Gevargizian’s Debut Feature The Stylist can be found on ARROW – and begins streaming March 1st, 2021 in the US, Canada & the UK heading up their March lineup.
Building on the success of the Arrow Video Channel and expanding its availability across multiple devices and countries, subscription-based ARROW boasts a selection of cult classics, hidden gems, and iconic horror films, all passionately curated by the ARROW team.
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