If you’ve ever felt your pulse racing in the chair of a barber or hairdresser, Arrow’s new horror film The Stylist will crawl under your skin like no other. Taking obvious inspiration from horror classics like Maniac and May, female director Jill Gevargizian never shies away from the gore. Brutal scalping sequences punctuate the narrative in vibrant bursts of red which circles back to the horror of it all even as some parts in the middle sag the pacing significantly. Najarra Townsend in the lead role doesn’t receive much in the way of backstory or character development; her bizarre quirks and fascinations though are enough to paint her as a seriously disturbed woman.
An obsessive hair stylist named Claire (Najarra Townsend) seems friendly and inviting on the outside, but inside she’s shielding a fierce secret. Her client list is large, but many of them never make it out of her chair. When longtime client Olivia (Brea Grant), requests Claire to style hair for her wedding, Claire spirals wildly out of control as she struggles to suppress her demons.
By nature, the setup is rather predictable if you’ve seen even the tiniest amount of thrillers. The obsessive crazy lady trope has become a genre all its own since the 90’s and I think Gevargizian knows it. By laser-focusing in on Claire’s insanity, the viewer gets plunged into the off-kilter reality that exists in her own head. It’s a reality where it’s perfectly normal to wear the scalps of others like a comforting wig, stalk a friend at their job, break into their home, and lust after everything they have that you don’t. This could’ve been even stronger if her backstory was expanded upon. We never truly understand the root of Claire’s quirks and at times that feels like a hindrance to the film. Olivia is never given the amount of screentime devoted to Claire, but Brea Grant brings a vibrance to her role that bleeds into the strange chemistry between the two women.
A final act that gradually grows to the ending’s harsh crescendo really puts the cherry on top of this indie horror flick. My mind instantly began running at the idea of a sequel – the possibilities are definitely there if this is an avenue they ever want to explore. It’s refreshing to see female-led horror that feels so singular in both vision and execution even if all of the pieces aren’t perfect. The Stylist comes to Arrow on March 1st, followed by a VOD and Blu-Ray release in June.