The plot is self explanatory, Claire (Townsend) is working at a hair salon, she’s petite and a bit shy, but there’s much more going on inside her head. When her boss heads home early and lets her close up, she takes one more customer, and proceeds to kill her client, ripping their scalp off like a brand new wig to wear. On the outside Claire seems harmless, often wearing muted colors of yellow and green, stopping at her local coffee shop and ordering her usual. But inside she is a lonely soul and her way of calling out arrives in her own demented hair styling way. When Olivia (Grant) becomes desperate for a hairstylist to her wedding at the last minute, she calls on Claire to help, but what starts as a kind new friendship, quickly becomes a new obsession for Claire.
There’s plenty of excitement that The Stylist has to offer, with Townsend’s performance having outbursts like a scissor wielding Jason Voorhees, but what shocked me most is how reserved The Stylist is. Gevargizian, along with co-writers Eric Havens and Eric Stolze, do an excellent job of building the Claire character. There’s a depth of emotions and a mystery to her, making this not just a B-movie slasher film, but a well thought out dive into the struggles of women and what’s expected of them. Early on, the parallels between The Stylist and De Palma’s Sisters is uncanny, with cinematographer Robert Patrick Stern using split screens to display the differing lives of Claire and Olivia. Both characters are on different paths, Olivia with her own doubts of her marriage, while Claire is just wanting someone to reach out to.
It would also be a waste if I didn’t mention yet another fantastic performance by Townsend, who continues to impress, showing a violent side, mixed with her ability to portray the intense emotions of a character. Townsend’s work in Mercury in Retrograde was the engine starting, but The Stylist is her putting her foot down on the peddle. Her work bouncing off of Grant’s conflicted Olivia is a unique juxtaposition of politics in women, the one wants what the other has, but what the other has is just a mask, a fake head of hair you might say.
The Stylist may have some shortcomings, the pace is not always great, and I wanted Gevargizian to let her characters break out even more, but this is arguably one of the best horror movies of 2020. The Stylist has an absolutely fantastic ending, sticking it even when you know what is coming, and unveiling a great new trio in Townsend, Grant, and Gevargizian. Make no mistake, these ladies are a cut above the rest.
THE STYLIST MADE ITS WORLD PREMIERE AT FANTASTIC FEST AND WILL BE PLAYING AT THE MUSIC BOX THEATRE ON OCTOBER 29TH.
Written by: Leo Brady
October 2nd, 2020
MOVIE: THE STYLIST
STARRING: NAJARRA TOWNSEND; BREA GRANT; MILLIE MILAN; LAURA KIRK
DIRECTED BY: JILL GEVARGIZIAN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The Stylist director Jill Gevargizian, stars Najarra Townsend and Brea Grant are all favorites of mine in today's horror genre circles, and after this movie, I hope they will be favorites for you as well. Gevargizian’s path is a cool story. The Kansas City native made an impact with her short film version- also named The Stylist- and was also involved in other projects as a producer, but this is her big moment. The fact is, you really want someone like this to succeed at making a feature film, especially when the horror genre continues to boost women working behind the camera. Townsend and Grant have already established their work, but these three working together is like a holy trinity of horror. The Stylist is a feminist slasher film, rooted in the films of Brian De Palma and Jennifer Kent, but with more than a little taken off the top.