A swift cold caress. A metallic blade skims your scalp. The tender handling of hair. The disadvantage of sitting with your back to someone with a lethal tool. You’re at the mercy of a wild array of possibilities that go from the helpful to the obscure.
The introduction to The Stylist is a beautiful presentation of an intimate moment, a few minutes of absolute surrender for the sake of physical beauty. In those minutes, a girl arrives at the beauty parlor looking for a “color touch up and a trim,” a beautiful and shy hairdresser offers her wine and a good service. As minutes go by, a confession lets us know the girl in the seat is not quite as innocent as she appears to be. Her family seems secondary to the opportunity of an affair, and her stylist doesn’t know how to react. Until she does. The wine glass is dropped and a scalping begins.
Moments later, this shy girl is turned into a monster of some sorts when she sobs in front of her mirror while preparing the bloodied hair. The wig made of flesh and a dead woman’s hair is carefully placed on her head, and just then she offers her first smile in the movie.
Directed by Jill Gevargizian, The Stylist is an extension of a short film of the same name she made several years ago. This time, however, the follow up to that story is oriented towards the expansion of the hairdresser with murderous tendencies. Gevargizian composes a strange symphony of social distress, the weight of an unknown — but possibly traumatic past — and the shocking emergence of a primal nature coupled with violence. Not often does an unclear character get portrayed with great confidence by a director who decisively knows the kind of movie she wants to make and the insight she wants to use. The result is a visually stunning film that doesn’t show the limited budget you may think it has. What a ride!
Claire (Najarra Townsend, “Portal”), our very dangerous hairstylist, receives a message by one of her regular clients, Olivia (Brea Grant, “Lucky”). Olivia needs help with a very important event — she needs to pick a hairstyle for her wedding. Claire accepts after some hesitation and this sparks a harmless friendship at first; a couple of drinks and soon the true feelings behind the wedding are admitted into their conversation. But Claire won’t stop until her presence in Olivia’s life is absolute. She ends up attending the bachelorette party, some text messages come and go, and ultimately Olivia comes to the conclusion she doesn’t need attention or help from Claire. This rejection shows Claire that she’s not as essential to Olivia as she thought (or wanted). Her final reaction is explosive to say the least . . .
But while the dark sociopathic aspects to The Stylist are captured competently, when Gevargizian tries to inject Claire’s character with some reason and attempts to justify Claire’s inevitable (and predictable) ending, Gevargizian falters. Why does the woman do what she does? Is there a backdrop to her actual over-reactions and premeditated acts? In this exploration of her character, the arguments are not fully fleshed out and we’re left to accept the seemingly randomness of her actions as just that, random. Even just presenting the simple possibility of social anxiety being the culprit would have sufficed.
Nonetheless, the importance of independent horror has never clearer. Every day that passes, genre cinema becomes more accessible. I cannot emphasize enough the relevance of these kinds of films in our daily virtual life. The Stylist is the evidence we need to take a good look at this underground catalogue and move our attention away from big studio films. Aside from minor quibbles, Jill Gevargizian and team should feel proud of this twisted and impressive product of horror we didn’t know we needed until those first few troubling minutes . . .