The Stylist - The Stylist(Blu Ray & CD) [Arrow Video - 2020]
The Stylist is vapidly woozy, macabrely neon-edged, and at points jarringly gory psycho thriller-come-skewed drama set in the world of lady’s hairdressing. Here from Arrow Video- both in the UK and USA- is a double-disc release- bringing together the film with a good selection’s extras on Blu Ray, and the films soundtrack on a CD.
The Stylist is a 2020 American production, and it’s the first feature-length film directed/(co) written by Kansas City, Missouri based Jill Gevargizian- who is also a hairdresser in real life. The film with its one hour and forty-five-minute runtime is creepily lulling and vapidly unsettling. From time to time, it snaps up with brutal gory moments, and slightly cliched- if femininely touched serial killer tropes. It’s certainly watchable if at points, not a wholly successful debut film.
The films centred around Claire (Najarra Townsend) a talented-if- timid ladies’ hairdresser- who recently has been scalping and killing her late-night clients- and this is no big give away, as she does the ‘business’ in the first five minutes of the film. From here it drops into more of a morbidly drifting and troubling subtle drama, as Claire finds a new obsession in Oliva (Brea Grant) a young businesswoman who is due to be married soon. As the film moves along, we get some sudden moments of intense/ brutal gore- taking in of course scalpings, and a few raging stab-fests and the slow-but-sure unwind of Claire's sanity.
Townsend’s is largely subdued and nuanced in her performance as the timid-yet- quietly unsettled Clair- sure she has moments of raging psycho-ness and grinning dementedness, but mainly she low-key. Grant is believable and fleshed out as her new obsession, and the surrounding cast is serviceable enough. The films lulling pace is both positive and negative- when it works Gevargizian creates an effective feeling of vapid dread and oppressive unease, when it doesn’t it feels like its treading moody cinematic water- coming off like a female-focused and slightly bland Nicolas Winding Refn. The films effectively score is a mix of lushly hazed and disorientating layered pianos, pressing synth tension, and a blend of the two. Overall, The Stylist is certainly one of the more vapidly moody and effective feminine focused psycho thrillers I’ve seen in a while. Sure they are issues, but these never fully pushed me away or lost me- so a promising debut, and I’ll certainly keep an eye out for future work from Ms Gevargizian.
On the extra side of things, we get a commentary track from Gevargizian and lead actress Townsend- this is a chatty, and largely laid-back affair- they discuss the film's locations, with one of them being the salon where Gevargizian works as a hairdresser. They talk about how Townsend managed to pull off playing a hairdresser when she isn’t one and the use of creative editing. They talk about the film's production, and its development from 2006 short of the same name, and more. This is an interesting enough track, though at points maybe a little sporadic- maybe it would have worked better if there was a third person in on the track posing questions to the two women. Next on the extras side, we get around an hour and six minutes’ worth of featurettes discussing the film. There is The Invisible Woman- a twenty visual essays from author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, where she talks about the themes of women’s labour and female killers in The Stylist and horror cinema in general. There are outtakes, the original short Kickstarter film, and another 2016 short Pity, location scouting, trailer/ image gallery.
The second discs takes in the film's soundtrack, and not its score (well aside from the title theme). The CD runs around thirty minutes and takes in eight songs that appear in the film, and I’m afraid this wasn’t for me- as it’s a selection of moody electro touched -guitar pop, twee and mellow soul rap, and blends of beats, atmospheric keys, rapped-to-sang vocals. I can of course understand this been part of the release, and if you enjoy more mainstream-if-moody blends of pop, rap, and soul- then you may get more from this than I did. It’s a pity they couldn’t have added in the score itself, or at least a selection from it- as there is certainly room on the disc, and I rather enjoyed the score.
Once again Arrow has picked up and released one of the more interesting thrillers/ low-key horror films with The Stylist- with the companies’ usual selection of great and worthy extras. The film has its issues, but as an original stab (pun intended) on the whole psycho-killer thing it’s certainly worth a look, and it’s great to see a genre film coming from the more feminine perspective. Roger Batty