Dir. Jill Gevargizian (2020)
A hairstylist who doubles as a serial killer becomes obsessed with her clients, slowly descending into madness.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Having been around many hairstylists in my life (The Morrigan was one in her former life), I absolutely believe in the possibility that at least half of them are also serial killers. These girls are freaks, and the conversations that you overhear walking through a salon are insanely private and often incredibly bizarre. Would it even slightly surprise me if one of them had a big pile of scalps in their basement? Short answer: nope. Long answer: noooope.
The opening of this film sets the stage for what’s to come, introducing the audience to lonely stylist Claire (played brilliantly by Najarra Townsend). She stays late to take care of a client who is in town without family, and she sees in her the perfect victim. By which I mean she drugs her drink and steals her fucking scalp. The opening scene is gorgeously shot, which will become a theme throughout, as The Stylist is far prettier of a movie than it has any right to be. Claire is deliriously creepy, and for an indie film, the pacing is wonderful and I continuously felt myself enthralled with the psychological horror unfolding throughout the film.
Someone is in desperate need of a beauty blender.
The film is, essentially, a tale of loneliness and isolation. Director Jill Gevargizian weaves a tale that so many who work in service industries understand, in which you think that you belong, but really you’re just the help. We see Claire invited to a “girl’s night” by one of her clients (Olivia, played by Brea Grant) for whom she recently agreed to work a wedding. She is initially hesitant, but the client persuades her by playing up their “friendship.” She is invited to a “girl’s night” by this client, and almost immediately after arriving is asked to take pictures of the client in her wedding dress. Soon afterwards, Olivia texts Claire, affirming what we already thought to be true: she’s already wanting to book her next haircut. At the end of the day, Claire is always the help, never the bridesmaid.
However, let’s not entirely kid ourselves: Claire is a woman who is in desperate need of some guidance from Emily Post. She is socially clueless, and when her travels lead her into Olivia’s house unaccompanied, she even uses her erstwhile “friend’s” vibrator. That is not appropriate social behavior, Claire. Also, you know, the whole cutting off people’s scalps to wear around her house thing is also quite socially unacceptable. By the way, Claire, there’s an app that lets you try on other people’s hairstyles. I don’t think things needed to get quite so drastic.
I’m left, more than anything, with the impression that this is a flat out beautiful film. Everything from the cinematography to the wardrobe is gorgeous, filled with pops of color that Argento would drool over and top notch visuals that you simply do not see from first-time directors. Even Claire’s basement, where she keeps the scalps of her victims, looks like a Victorian wardrobe, filled with gorgeous ambient lighting and beautiful furniture in place of the usual rusty pipes and chains. It’s a character drive slasher film at its essence, which is so rare to see and rarer still to see done well. It’s disturbingly creepy and a slow burn while somehow never making the audience’s mind wander. And hoo boy, that finale…
As dazzling an indie film as you’ll ever see.
Who this movie is for: Modern, smart horror fans, Indie film fans who prefer their films to be actually good, Brunettes who want to be blondes
Bottom line: Absolutely breathtaking film from top to bottom. The acting is five cuts above (pun very much intended) what you usually see from indie films, and the directing and cinematography is stellar. It’s easy to see why this film has swept many film festivals and why it became such a darling that Arrow Video gave it a loving release. I preordered it from them personally, and when I finally got the opportunity to watch it, I was incredibly glad I did. This might well be my favorite film that I’ve seen this year, and I can’t wait to see what Jill Gevargizian comes up with next. Plus, she’s a Chiefs fan, so she’s a winner either way. This film is an must see like very few others, and you can stream it today on Shudder or pick up the stunning limited edition blu-ray from Arrow Video.