Review: The Stylist

Written and directed by Jill Gevargizian, co-written by Eric Havens and Eric Stolze, a lonely hair stylist becomes obsessed with the lives of her clients and descends into murderous madness. Starring: Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant, Laura Kirk, Sarah McGuire, Jennifer Seward, Millie Milan and Kimberly Igla.

On the surface, hair stylist sounds like the perfect job for a serial killer, getting to know intimate details about people without any emotional connection or arousing suspicion. At first glance, it seems to work well for Claire (Townsend) but slowly the cracks appear and her motivations become a little more foggy. Initially it seems like she’s a smart, calculated killer who has a compulsion for killing and keeping her victims’ hair, who doesn’t love a story about a sadistic female killer? But then it takes a wrong turn and instead makes her drive to kill based on loneliness, jealousy and resentment of heading towards spinsterhood. That’s where things go wrong, what could have been a satisfying and slick tale about a smoothly operating serial killer, becomes a woman turning to murder because she’s fed up with being single and having no friends.

The writing does give potential for a larger explanation of Claire’s emotional damage but it never quite gets far enough to take attention away from its disappointingly old-fashioned motivations. Part of the problem is how slow the story moves, it follows a lot of mundane moments with a little added drama and sporadic violence. There’s no real driving force, it doesn’t have a growing intensity to match Claire’s declining mental state. There’s also the issue of how Claire’s character is built, after the initial confidence, it becomes very obvious that she has some serious anxiety issues and therefore it’s less and less believable that she could get away with murder. It’s crying out for more mystery and suspicion, it just doesn’t have enough layers or turns to justify a feature.

Unfortunately, there isn’t an injection of energy through the directorial style to compensate for that slowness and simplicity. It overuses on-screen texts, there’s some split screen thrown in there that feels out of place for this story and otherwise it stays very much in its own lane, not taking chances. At a certain point it does suddenly try to add a lot more colour and typically stylish edge to it but it’s too late in the day and simply clashes with the rest. One element that would have certainly improved the film is how it uses its score, music can go along way with a film like this but sadly in this case, it’s ill-timed and relatively ineffective. At times where you’d expect a background scoring of the building risk or tension, it’s not there and at times where it feels unneeded, it’s there.

The most consistent factor that the film has to offer is undoubtedly the performances, while the character may not be greatly constructed, Townsend throws everything she has at Claire’s wildly unbalanced emotions. Grant is great as Olivia, she’s kind and relatable, she brings a more vibrant energy to the film, with her bubbly personality. It’s a shame that McGuire’s part as Dawn is relatively short, it feels like she had more to add.

The Stylist is a good concept with disappointing execution, going down a rather outdated stereotypical route that you’d hope we’d have outgrown by now. It’s missing a key driving force of intensity, suspense or tension to keep you hooked. Sadly, it plays out flatly without a definitive style or satisfying story.

Verdict: ✯

Make your own verdict by checking it out on Arrow from 1st March

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