By far the most anticipated film of this years FrightFest The Stylist had a lot to live up to seeing as it is the feature length adaptation of Jill “Sixx” Gevargizian celebrated 2016 short. Having been blown away by the original mini masterpiece myself during one of the Short Film Showcases at the 2016 festival I was eager to see if the extended movie could deliver.
Impressively somehow The Stylist exceeds its origins taking the seeds sown in the short and growing them into one of the most interesting and engaging movies made about a psychopath in recent years.
Set in Kansas City and revolving around seemingly shy yet skilful hair stylist Claire, played again by the extremely talented Najarra Townsend, we quickly discover not only her innate ability to allow people to open up to her but also her dark drive to murder and scalp women.
Collecting the hideous hair trophies in her hidden basement boutique Clare spends hours wearing them and pretend to be her victims, all in a desperate and misguided attempt to inhabit another life other than her own. Lost and lonely without a family or friends she is desperate to make a real connection yet simultaneously extremely scared of letting anyone in.
When Clare receives a panicked call from bride to be Olivia (Dexter star and 12 Hour Shift writer and director Brea Grant) she breaks one of her own rules and takes on styling Olivia’s hair for the wedding. As the two become closer Clare finally feels like she has found a true friend but as bitchy bridesmaids and Olivia’s flawed fiancé start to get in the way the stylist starts to unravel and her dark desires begin to return.\
Frequently using split screen to display and compare the lives and actions of the two central characters we not only see the similarities and differences between Olivia and Clare but also the more sinister stalking the unhinged hairdresser initiates in an attempt to get closer to her new confidant.
From a story by Gevargizian who also co-wrote the script with Eric Havens and Eric Stolze, The Stylist is an ingenious and insightful examination into the mind of a serial killer slotting right alongside American Psycho, The Voices and the 2012 remake of Maniac. All of these films force the audience to engage with the psychotic central character in an attempt to understand them and truly see the world through their eyes regardless of the consequences.
Vital to achieving this is Najarra Townsend’s performance which is pitch perfect. Understated she never overplays the role or falls into a flat caricature and throughout the movie we witness her flawlessly fluctuate between meek unassuming emotional wreck and menacing homicidal maniac.
Even when enacting the sick slaying of the innocent females who fall prey to her extremely sharp pair of scissors there is a tormented anguish present that allows the audience to empathise and the film cleverly pushes the viewer further and further, challenging them and Clare to see how far they will both go.
Forgoing flashbacks or saccharine stories from the past Clare is laid bare as a fatally flawed individual who just happened to become a murderer as a outlet for the pain she feels inside. Whereas many other horror films of this ilk opt for abuse or trauma as the over simplistic key to the killer character, there is a far greater risk in The Stylist’s route which avoids a simple explanation for Clare’s actions and it is a much more accomplished, mature and thought provoking film because of this.
Beautifully shot, expertly scripted and brilliantly acted The Stylist sits solidly on the list of the best psycho killer movies ever made, offering a unique and astute analysis of a character who has unwillingly been pushed onto a path of inner and outer destruction.
Read Five FrightFest Facts From The Stylist co-writer Eric Havens HERE