A lonely hairstylist works on client after client, getting glimpses into each of their lives. Yet every once in a while she finds a life she wishes she could have for herself, resulting in murderous tendencies.
Based on a short film of the same name, The Stylist is directed by Jill Gevargizian (Dark Web, Jaenki: Miracle Maze), who also came up with the story. Gevargizian co-wrote the screenplay along with Eric Havens (Dark Web) and Eric Stolze (Under the Bed, Night of the Wolf). While I knew of the short film, I hadn’t seen it until after watching the feature-length film. Both the short and the film follow a hairstylist named Claire. She is a somewhat reserved and anxious young woman. What nobody knows is that Claire has a strange collection; hair scalped off of certain clients who she wishes she could be. When she becomes friends with one of her clients, Claire tries to keep her murderous tendencies at bay in hopes of leading a normal, happy life.
The filmmakers waste no time drawing you in. We are immediately introduced to Claire, then her strange proclivity. It sets the tone for the film because, even when Claire is being her usual timid self, we know someone much more sinister lurks just beneath the surface. By showing the audience Claire’s true nature early on, it makes the rest of the film so much more tense as she becomes friends with a client and tries to extinguish her hidden violent nature. Another powerful aspect of the film is how it shows there is a very fine line between wanting to be friends with someone, wanting to be with them intimately, and wanting to actually be them. With Claire, those lines are often blurred. It seems as though she can’t separate these feelings, which makes it almost impossible for her to have healthy relationships with other women. With everything we know about Claire, we watch her go on a journey that could realistically only have one possible outcome, but the filmmakers are successful in making this outcome feel more inevitable rather than predictable.
Both leads in The Stylist are a joy to watch. Najarra Townsend (Contracted, Wolf Mother) reprises her role from the short film as Claire, the hairstylist. Townsend perfectly strikes a balance with Claire, making her appear sweet and endearing at times, but then her anxious nature bubbles up and her anger and violence come out. It’s hard not to love Claire, even as she’s scalping her next victim and then wearing their hair. It’s also hard not to love Brea Grant (Lucky, Beyond the Gates) as Claire’s client, Olivia. Olivia is a very cool, laid-back character that seems to be everything Claire is not, but wishes she could be. Grant portrays this character very well. She even made me want to either be her or be her best friend. Townsend and Grant have great on-screen chemistry. There is an ease to their relationship that feels very real, especially considering their stylist-client dynamic. It’s clear that Gevargizian is a hairstylist in real life, because she perfectly captures how clients often feel they can openly talk to their stylist about anything, often revealing their innermost thoughts, desires, and secrets.
There is a richness to The Stylist that makes every shot beautiful. Many scenes feature colors that are dark and vibrant, so the film looks gorgeous while also feeling cozy, like walking into a restored Craftsman home. This gorgeous look makes Claire’s crimes simultaneously beautiful and horrifying. The practical effects, especially in the opening sequence, are definitely grotesque. Yet the set design, cinematography, and even the gorgeous wardrobe make the practical effects also beautiful. These scenes are punctuated by a wonderfully hypnotic piano score composed by Nicholas Elert (Gags the Clown). It’s impossible to deny the glamor of The Stylist, even when dripping with blood.
The Stylist is a sleek thriller that is as gorgeous to look at as it is disturbing. Gevargizian proves to have a unique eye for creating gorgeous imagery while also crafting a sleek thriller rooted in reality. It’s a very stylish look at the relationship with a hairstylist and their client, sprinkled with horror. Townsend and Grant deliver phenomenal performances. Townsend especially shines as Claire unravels throughout the film. It’s a compelling story of anxiety and violence that also has beautiful visual elements. Even if you know how the story will end, the journey is still engrossing to watch.
OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10