The Stylist, 2020.
Directed by Jill Gevargizian.
Starring Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant, Davis DeRock, Sarah McGuire and Jennifer Seward.
A psychotic hairdresser becomes obsessed with her clients and goes on a murderous rampage.
There appears to be a spelling mistake in the title of this movie was it should be called The Stylish, seeing how carefully designed and crafted every shot and set decoration is. In fact, it is lit and coloured so lushly that every scene is extended after any dialogue is spoken just so you can take in all the gorgeous visuals.
Okay, that last bit might be a sardonic swipe intended for humour (and likely failing) but The Stylist is a very good-looking movie that follows the current trend of indie genre movies that are bathed in over-saturated neon pinks and reds in an attempt to capture a bygone era where everything wasn’t actually bathed in neon lighting but we’ve all bought into the grand illusion (or delusion) that it was. The other current trend that The Stylist tricks you with – and was alluded to with the previous sardonic comment – is that long scenes of not-very-much happening punctuated with an escalating synth score (another grand delusion of retro pop culture that isn’t entirely accurate) are in some way tense or – even worse – deep. Guess what? The Stylist is neither of those things.
This is because The Stylist has no plot. It starts at point A and ends at point A with a slight deviation to look at point B but decides to stay where it is comfortable. There are plenty of horror movies that have similarly thin plots – take William Lustig’s Maniac as an example, mainly because The Stylist shares a lot of DNA with that movie – but can still keep you engrossed by way of characters you want to follow, memorable performances, exciting action, gruesome gore, inventive direction or any number of filmmaking techniques or tricks; Maniac has an authentically sweaty and creepy performance by Joe Spinell, who is clearly teetering on the brink of madness during every frame of the movie and forces you to keep watching as he visibly has a breakdown and regresses to being a child in his abusive mother’s presence, and all of this is shown by way of short flashbacks and the actor’s nuances that clue you in to who he is. In The Stylist, Claire (Najarra Townsend) is a totally empty shell of a character with no backstory and no clues as to why she is the way she is and, because of this, offers no reason to care about her. Najarra Townsend has a presence on the screen and her portrayal of a lonely woman just looking to be accepted should have been the central anchor to the movie but she is given so little material to work with that no personality apart from being a shrinking violet for no real reason ever comes across, and the sluggish pace means that you’re spending more time than you need to with this near-anonymous nobody, which gets tiresome very quickly.
The kills, when they happen, are well executed and tap into Maniac again as Claire scalps her victims so she can try on their hair and become that person in her mind. It leads to a very predictable climax that you can see coming a long time before the other characters on the screen do and, again, it is played out in a long, drawn-out fashion which probably wasn’t a good idea as it gives away what we already knew was coming about 30 seconds before the big reveal, making it less impactful than it already was. As with most of this movie, had it been tightened up and paced a bit nippier it would probably have worked a little better. Still, it gives Najarra Townsend an opportunity to give us a character moment for Claire that is still a bit tragic despite it being telegraphed minutes before, and she does it with a look of relish that suggests we should have had more bloody madness and less navel gazing all along.
As is customary with Arrow Video the disc is packed with extras, most of which are an audio commentary and various promotional materials featuring co-writer/producer/director Jill Gevargizian and actress Najarra Townsend. The most interesting, though, is the 15-minute short that this movie is based on, also titled The Stylist. Interesting because it is basically the opening kill of the full movie with a different actress playing the client but Claire – again played by Najarra Townsend – is a lot chattier and exudes a lot more personality, adding some much-needed pep into proceedings. It does meander into tedium very quickly after the initial excitement is over but it is 90 minutes shorter and loses very little of what you get from the full-length feature, proving that The Stylist is really only an idea with very little meat on its bones in both of its variations.
So, The Stylist then – looks nice and has an idea at its core but the snail pace, lack of originality and serviceable direction ultimately make it a wholly underwhelming experience to sit through as it never goes anywhere except where you expect, and where is the excitement in that?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★