Dir: Jill Gevargizian | US Horror, 104′
This slick little slice of horror is stylishly dressed up and not too heavy to be an enjoyable light night watch with its hypnotic soundscape and sophisticated visuals.
The Stylist started life as a short film but funding enabled a feature makeover and filmmaker Jill Gevargizian added grist to the original with a few more peripheral, rather underwritten characters including the film’s original lead Najarra Townsend – who has now honed Claire down to a tee – in narrative that centres on a lonely disturbed stylist with a sideline in serial killing.
We all know how a visit to a hair salon plays out: you say what you want and then desperately dive back into your phone or a newspaper, hoping to avoid the usual generic chitchat. But the salon can also provide a space to offload and talk freely in a detached environment and the film explores these subtle female dynamics.
In a recent poll hairdressers emerged as the most content of professionals. Outwardly pleasant and personable Claire is certainly a dark horse on this account, and Townsend plays her very close to her chest in a performance that is subtle and quite intriguing. At first she appears a stable and self-assured individual but as the story unfolds stills water run deeper, and Claire’s incessant probing questions and private moments of angst (even meltdowns) reveal a tormented, dysfunctional individual, desperately fighting dark urges, with macabre results.
Living alone with only her dog for company, Claire is a woman who fantasises about her clients’ private lives, particularly when she meets longterm client Olivia (Brea Grant) who engages her service on a regular basis in the build up to her upcoming nuptials. But Claire is clearly unsure about the growing intimacy that develops when Olivia pushes the friendship envelope, Claire having to retreat to the dark zone of her personality in order to process feelings of jealousy and latent anger that surface and threaten to engulf the high-performing side of her split personality.
With echoes of Peter Strickland’s In Fabric, The Stylist is a tightly wound chick-flick psychodrama that avoids bleeding into full blown melodrama or even descending into gore-fest territory as it compellingly unpacks the complexities of its sociopathic central character. MT
AVAILABLE ON ARROWplayer 1 MARCH 2021