Arrow Video is just about to unleash their newest psychological horror film, The Stylist. Back in 2016, director Jill Gevargizian created a short film of the same name which centred around a more condescend version of the full movie. Now, the disgustingly good The Stylist has been fully realised in this gory and tense story. I had the absolute privilege of watching The Stylist and I am dying to talk about it, no pun intended. Let’s just say that I was wrong to believe that a hairdresser couldn’t be scary.
Hold onto your wigs because The Stylist is here and you could be next to join her collection.
Read the official synopsis from Arrow Video:
We all dream of being someone else… but for Claire (Najarra Townsend), that dream goes from an obsession to a living nightmare. Hairstylist by day, serial killer and collector of scalps by night, Claire’s lonely existence is thrown into turmoil when her regular client, Olivia (Brea Grant), asks her to style her hair for her wedding day. Increasingly fixated on Olivia’s seemingly flawless life, Claire vows to lock up her scalp collection and change her ways for good – only to discover that repressing your deadly desires is easier said than done…
I enjoyed The Stylist. It’s a story that is slightly stomach turning and tense. What impressed me though, and it’s mostly down to the cinematography and editing, is that it made hairdressing sexy. As someone who spends very little time at the hairdressers, The Stylist was able to brilliantly convey the importance of hair and the intimacy behind getting your hair styled.
I’ve watched many films and shows that contain passionate scenes of love and most of them follow a similar recipe. Close ups, fading shots, and a fitting piece of music. The Stylist takes this formula and applies it to the art of styling hair and it works brilliantly. There is this seductive nature that consumes Claire when she’s in her element. She loves styling hair and she revels in the power that hair can give. There’s something quite sad about it once you learn more about Claire. She has this hunger to fit in and she’s clearly not happy with her appearance, hence the obsession over hair. but when you isolate those seductive scenes, they’re quite enchanting. Then of course you remember that you’re being lured in by a serial killer.
Most of the film centres on Claire and her obsession with a regular client, Olivia. Unfortunately, this is where the film begins to fall apart slightly. There are some really nice sequences that provide two juxtaposing live styles. On one hand, Olivia is in love, surrounded by friends and is living in a brighter light in general. Claire however, is sat at home on her own in a dark little place with only a dog for company. She’s quiet, reserved, and lonely. The only time she feels happy is when she’s cutting hair and that really shows. When Olivia arrives, Claire begins to obsess over her. The attention that she gives her, her hair, and the life that she lives.
But who is Olivia? The film tells us that Olivia is a regular but I don’t think the film can decide whether Olivia and Claire are friends or not. They act like friends and seem like friends yet we’re constantly reminded that Olivia is simply a paying customer who seems to think that her hair holds the key to rescuing her wedding- which she begins to question anyway. We’ve had stories of stalkers before, they’ll be around forever, but The Stylist really struggles to set boundaries and establish a working relationship. It’s quite clear why Claire is obsessed with Olivia and that would have come across even stronger if we saw Olivia as a regular customer.
The film tells us that styling hair opens a gateway into someone’s life. That is the perfect opportunity to plant the seeds for a fantastic obsession. With each appointment, Claire becomes more invested in Olivia’s life until it spirals out of control. Instead, we’re just have to assume that Claire and Olivia have created some sort of bond overtime. That’s what really lets the film down. We’re presented with a relationship that is confused.
On top of that, we have to look at Claire’s unusual hobby. Visually, I love how it all looked. There was a really eerie and uncomfortable atmosphere when we first got to see her small collection of wigs. When it actually came to removing scalps, The Stylist didn’t shy away. In fact, I physically cringed in my seat as the sound of skin being ripped off punctured my ears. However, Claire’s lust for hair and change is at the centre of this film and the illusion is somewhat ruined by multiple inconsistencies and an overall lack of development.
In order to obtain these scalps, Claire obviously needs to subdue and kill her victim. That’s fine, in fact it’s brilliant. However, Claire decides to commit these acts in locations that probably wouldn’t be advised… like a coffee shop. Somehow she was able to get away with it all flawlessly. Everyone just assumes that this random coffee shop employee has gone missing when in actual fact she has been murdered and dumped in the bin next to that coffee shop, is CCTV not a thing? In addition to that, Claire seems to be an absolute pro at breaking into people’s houses undetected. She could bypass any lock and obstacle.
These skills and talents aren’t a problem. In fact, they’re very handy to have if you’re a serial killer. But it would have been great to see her actually use those skills rather than her just appearing in another house or walking over a clean crime scene. If she has been a murderer for a long time then it is safe to assume that she knows what to do and how to do it. It becomes part of the routine. But the impression that we get from Claire is that she is a bit of an amateur who uses the safety of her hairdressers to commit these heinous acts. When her obsession overwhelms her, that’s when she begins to slip up. Yet it seems like she has an arsenal of skills at her disposal.
These skills aren’t the problem. It’s the fact that they lack exploration. We didn’t get to see her clean up the crime scene efficiently, or erase CCTV footage, or even get rid of her fingerprints. Everything is just conveniently swept under the rug. How does Claire hide the evidence? Where do the bodies go? Where are the police? These are questions that are raised and completely ignored. In fact, the film establishes that the once missing coffee shop employee has been found dead yet nothing is done about it. Life goes on.
The Stylist has some decent performances in it, mostly from Najarra Townsend’s Claire who finds a lovely balance between innocent and scarily psychotic. I found her performance to be pretty great and definitely the highlight of the film. However, her performance isn’t enough to fully save this film. As I said before, I enjoyed watching The Stylist but it carries a lot of weight that drags it down.
Gevargizian’s The Stylist is a visually appealing and ambitious attempt at putting a killer spin on an ordinary aspect of life. Unfortunately, the psychological thriller falls short as it wrestles with a confusing relationship and gaping holes that raise far too many unnecessary questions.
See The Stylist first, on March 1st 2021, exclusively on ARROW, the passion-driven film platform giving film fans the opportunity to watch a curated selection of movies that the Arrow Video brand is famous for. It’s the home for weird and wild cult classics, newly-restored gems, and genre favourites.
Head over to ARROWand start your 30-day free trial. Available in the UK from February 1st 2021 on the following Apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV; iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices, Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers at www.ARROW-Player.com.
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