Hair stylist Claire (Najarra Townsend) gives off the impression that she’s meek and mild, and her clients talk to her with ease spilling their innermost secrets and sharing their lives. Behind the sweet exterior, Claire is actually a cold-blooded killer who scalps women whose lives she’s envious of and keeps their hair so she can pretend what it must be like to be them. When Claire reluctantly agrees to style client Olivia’s (Brea Grant) hair for her wedding, she finds herself drawn into Olivia’s world and quickly an obsession ensues.
‘The Stylist’ comes from co-writer and director Jill Gervargizian, who is a hair stylist in real life, and it’s downright terrifying. Not in a long time have I seen a film that has an opening scene so unforgettable and I’m fairly certain it’s going to stay with me for a long time. We’re introduced to Claire who is flawlessly dressed and coiffured, and struggles with anxiety in social situations. As she chats away to her client Sarah (Jennifer Seward), things take a turn for the shocking as Claire finds a use for her scissors other than giving Sarah a delightful new haircut.
You’d think after that opening that you’d find it hard to sympathise with Claire but it becomes shockingly quite easy. Her social anxiety makes her feel like a loner and as desperate as she is to fit in, she never quite manages. Her relationship with Olivia escalates into ‘Single White Female’ territory quickly and it becomes the focal point of Claire’s life. Gervargizian manages to always keep you on Claire’s side, regardless of what the character is doing on screen. In a way she subverts the expectations the audience will have for a film like this, and it puts you in a very uncomfortable position.
What you’ll grapple with is how you can feel sympathy for someone who is clearly unhinged but you’ll also likely come to the conclusion that Claire isn’t purely evil. This is a woman that wants a life that’s different from the one she’s been gifted. She’ll do anything to try and fit in but she lacks the social skills to build true friendships. Most people will identify with Claire’s anxiety struggle and you can actually see that she’s perhaps not as blasé about her actions as she first appears to be.
Najarra Townsend is absolutely superb as Claire. She switches from loveable to terrifying in the blink of an eye, and she’s fantastic as bringing out the conflict that bubbles just below the surface of the character. Her performance is chilling and it’ll leave a lasting impact. Brea Grant, as the object of Claire’s affection Olivia, is good too and somehow you root for her as much as you do Claire.
‘The Stylist’ is a seriously chilling horror that will linger on in your mind for days after you’ve seen it. You’ll need a strong stomach at times and quite possibly even a cushion to hide behind in case it gets a little much. You’ll also walk away amazed at Najarra Townsend’s performance and just how bold and fearless a director Gervargizian is. I can also guarantee you’ll think twice before oversharing the next time you go for a haircut.
Cast: Brea Grant, Najarra Townsend, Davis DeRock, Sarah McGuire, Jennifer Seward, Millie Milan Director: Jill Gevargizian Writers: Jill Gervargizian, Eric Havens, Eric Stolze Certificate: 18 Duration: 101 mins Released by: Sixx Tape Productions