When Jill Gevargizian’s phenomenally successful short film, The Stylist, started doing the rounds on the festival circuit in 2016, she will tell you that there was no way she was prepared for the volume of the call for a full feature that there was. No matter how much she already wanted to make the film, the audience reaction to the bloodletting antics of a murderous hairstylist could not have been predicted. Four years and a successful Kickstarter campaign later and the director returned to the festivals last year with the full length, kick-ass edition of The Stylist. Now, to solidify Gevargizian’s rise, her film has arrived into the hallowed halls of the Arrow Video discography with a fully loaded special edition.
Hair stylist Claire (Najarra Townsend – The Stylist short, Medinah) spends her work hours day dreaming; wanting to be somebody else and walk around in a different world. Her job gives her access to the lives of her customers, even if it is just for a little while. But the urge to live in another person’s skin gets too much for her and when the perfect opportunity falls into her lap, Claire takes it; killing a customer and scalping her to keep her hair as a wig.
READ MORE: I Am Samuel – Documentary Review
But as these things often do, the joy of pretending to live in someone else’s lifestyle as well as their skin becomes addictive. Claire finds herself wanting more scalps for her collection. As she feeds her new habit, going Hannibal Lecter on clients and acquaintances alike, she forms a bond that quickly turns to an obsession with regular client and throwaway friend Olivia (Brea Grant – All the Creatures Were Stirring) and tries everything she can think of to wiggle her way into her circle. Including using her scissors to do more than cut hair.
It’s very easy to label, or even dismiss, The Stylist as an indie Single White Female, or look at the grizzly murders audiences are invited to watch and see little more than a director inspired by American Psycho and injecting her vision into it. But there is a level of delicacy that Jill Gevargizian brings to her film that takes the sensibilities of those movies and adds her own little flavour to them. Years of being behind the scissors as a stylist herself has given Gevargizian a unique way to work behind the camera and bring Najarra Townsend’s character a hint of realism and a brief, terrifying glimpse into what may have been going through her mind in those hours with her clients.
The Stylist has all the hallmarks of a great horror film that showcases some much needed female empowerment with the genre’s antagonists, but there is so much more to Townsend’s murderous hairdresser than meets the eye and that’s where the brilliance of The Stylist shines through. Because while there is a strong sense that the fairer sex is getting a fair shake, The Stylist really lays its cards out when it becomes a peek into the dark and disturbing psychological damage that a person has to live with to commit these acts.
It is a study of those inner demons that can drive a person to madness in the name of trying to conform to social norms; it tells a story about a woman desperate to fit in but completely unable to and how that rejection and the resulting loneliness can manifest in the worst ways. A horror thriller that studies its antagonist and shows you the mental anguish that can cause a person to start taking a pair of scissors to scalps in their free time. These sympathetic glimpses are powerful enough to forgive a few pacing or narrative issues in an otherwise great film.
READ MORE: Knocked Up – Rom-Com Rewind
The Stylist hitting home release via Arrow Video just adds to the greatness of the film. As expected, the film gets a load of great extras that includes a feature length commentary from director (and writer, and producer) Jill Gevargizian and star Najarra Townsend which is a pleasure to listen to as their personalities shine throughout their production narrative and stories from the set. That bleeds into the multiple behind the scenes documentaries that discuss everything from the short film, to the feature’s Kickstarter campaign, all the way to wrapping the movie. There’s a pair of short films – including the original The Stylist – great outtakes, a video essay on women killers in the genre, and a soundtrack all included in the special edition package. It’s worthy of any collector’s shelf without the extras, but the Arrow edition makes it a must-own.
The Stylist is out on Limited Edition Blu-ray on 7th June from Arrow Video.