Director: Jill Gevargizian
Starring: Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant, Davis DeRock, Sarah McGuire
If you take the horror film Maniac from 1980 and instead of a psycho who wanders the streets for victims, changed it to a hairstylist who cuts hair to find her victims; then you have The Stylist. Both feature scalping and mannequins, both feature killers who have messed up lives due to their parents and both show them getting close to someone . The biggest difference between the two is that Maniac feels like an even more unhinged version of Taxi Driver with its gritty and down to Earth presentation, while The Stylist is full of style; it’s a vibrant well shot film that looks great.
Instead of the desolate and run-down hovel of a flat that Zito lives in, Claire lives in a perfect and pristine house, keeping her mannequins in the basement, which to be fair does resemble Zito’s flat. Her life is perfect and organised. Her crackers are stacked nice and uniformly on her plate, everything in the house in lined up perfectly. In fact, when she sees a crease in her otherwise flawless dress, she obsesses over it, not being aware of the people around her.
Claire is a hairstylist with a secret; she murders people. She works late most weekdays and uses that opportunity to drug and scalp her victims, keeping a collection of human scalps in her basement to try on and adopt their personalities. This changes when she befriends Olivia, as soon to be wed regular, who asks Claire to do her wedding hair. Claire sees this chance at friendship and to live a normal life.
The film is summed up in the prologue scene. The first victim that we see says to Claire, you always want what you don’t have. This is the main theme that the film explores. Claire wants friendship and acceptance, instead of feeling like she’s being left out. Her anxiety is evident in almost every scene, and it’s brought to life by a brilliantly nuanced and intense performance from Najarra Townsend (Contractor, Me and You and Everyone We Know). You can feel her pain and panic in the social situations that she’s in. It’s a real shame that the rest of the performances are poor. The rest of the cast feels unnatural and always feels stilted rather than real.
The Stylist is incredibly slow. Not much really happens in the 1 hour and 45 minute story. After the initial gruesome scalping, the horror is few and fair between. As it continues, you just want something to happen. It’s very boring and there are quite a few sequences that don’t need to be there. We get it, Claire isn’t comfortable in social situations and she stalks people, let’s just move it along. You can, and probably will, zone out during entire scenes and not miss anything vital.
Then you get to the ending. Don’t worry I’m not going to spoil it. This is what the entire film was made for. It is both the most ludicrous and stupid ending possible, and then at the same time fantastic and the perfect cap to the film. Just before it happens, you’ll think to yourself there’s no way that’s where this is going, and then it does. It feels like the idea of the ending came before the rest of the film and that everything else was just needed to justify the finale. It’s honestly worth it for that.
Without the ending, this would be a very bland horror film. It is in no way scary. The gore and effects, while good, are nothing special and won’t do anything for long-term horror fans. The film is boring with how slow the pacing is and most of the actors are poor. However, with that being said, the presentation of the film is gorgeous. Every shot is meticulous, and the score is foreboding and imposing (Which makes a silent sequence even more unnaturally striking). To top it off, Townsend’s performance is fabulous. Just what an ending.