The Stylist is the debut feature of Jill “Sixx” Gevargizian. It’s a crowdfunded expansion of Gevargizian’s 2016 short of the same name. The film follows Claire (Najarra Townsend), a socially awkward hair stylist. She lives alone in a large gothic house. By day she styles hair and by night she kills and scalps women before taking the scalps home to wear them and embody their lives in a strange way. When Olivia (Brea Grant of Heroes fame and director of recent film 12 Hour Shift) convinces Claire to style her hair for her wedding, Claire embarks on a friendship that becomes increasingly weird and dark. I don’t feel like its a spoiler to say this goes very wrong.
The film’s concept is a piece of William Castle-worthy schlock, indebted obviously to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre but also Bill Lustig’s Maniac (and its artful remake) with its focus on scalping. However in execution The Stylist achieves something more composed and artistic than the exploitation style that concept suggests. It’s a gorgeous looking debut with a surprisingly slow burn pace. The movie’s style has been compared to De Palma with the film cleverly using split screen. The striking colour palette shows the influence of the Italian Giallo films and at points brought to my mind Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon. The film is also very reminiscent of Lucky McKee’s debut May with its focus on a loner girl collecting body parts.
The production masterfully uses a careful selection of colour, composition and art direction to ensure that this relatively low budget film doesn’t look cheap. Claire’s beauty room/lair in particular looks incredible. These kind of smart choices should be seen as examples for other up and coming filmmakers. The score by Nicholas Elert is also fantastic.
In the live Q&A which followed the screening, the moderator said that they felt the film’s choice to not give Claire a more detailed backstory was a good decision. Giving the viewer this information may have been a more traditional choice: however, I felt that the character could have been developed to a greater extent. I didn’t believe there was a motivation for the character to do these things or for the conventionally attractive, well-groomed woman to be a social pariah. Nevertheless, Townsend and Grant give fantastic performances as part of an overall great ensemble cast.
Overall, The Stylist is a striking debut certainly worthy of horror fans’ attention.