From the moment it begins to the last scene, “The Stylist” is a near masterpiece of visual storytelling. It sets the tone for horror in 2021.
There was a lot of buzz around The Stylist at Fantastic Fest 2020, where it made its premiere, and during its festival circuit run. People seemed drawn to this quiet, mysterious film. The few promotional stills were haunting and exciting. The descriptions of the movie were vague, but intriguing. It got people talking, and the feedback was positive.
The film focuses on Claire (Najarra Townsend), a lonely, mysterious hairstylist who grows more and more obsessed with one of her regular clients (Brea Grant). As her fascination grows, so does her madness and her thirst of violence.
The Stylist surpasses the hype; brutal, isolating, and hauntingly beautiful. It melds deep empathy and compassion with savageness. The only tragedy is that the film won’t have the opportunity to have a full-scale theater release.
Jill Gevargizian, the film’s director, creates a masterful outing and demonstrates her natural understanding of composition.THE STYLIST combines different styles into a stunning, unified vision — like witnessing the neon glow of Nicholas Winding Refn, the arresting cinematography of Ana Lily Amirpour, and the deep empathy behind MAY (2002). Click To Tweet
Gevargizian, though, is not replicating other director’s visions. Instead, The Stylist feels like a deep passion project that has called forth all of Gevargizian’s talent.
Simply put, Gevargizian’s filmmaking is masterful.
I have yet to find a scene that does not look like a perfectly positioned piece of art. Whether it is a small focus on Claire in her car’s side-view mirror to the wonderful framing in the film’s shocking first and final sequence. Near every frame in this movie has been positioned to draw in the viewer’s eye, like every shot is its own separate painting.
And then there is Najarra Townsend.
As Claire, Townsend manages to be sympathetic and deadly, vulnerable and caged, beautiful and terrifying.
Within minutes, The Stylist exposes the viewer to Claire’s savagery. Yet, Townsend’s performance, somehow, manages to endear Claire to the viewer. We feel deep compassion for her. We care about her, despite her tendency toward homicide.
Townsend steals every scene. She owns this character with a level of honesty and engagement that does not often happen in horror movies. The range of emotions that she can seemingly call up at will is astounding.
THE STYLIST feels like it was made with love. This movie is a passion project. Only people truly invested in the film could have paid attention to every minor detail. From the costuming to the visual effects to the design of Claire’s cellar, everything feels significant.
The Stylist is both quiet and loud. It is a mash-up of influences and a bold statement of independent vision. It is a beautiful film, and there is no doubt it will have an impact on horror.