Review: THE STYLIST Cuts Deep Into the Heart of a Villain
Last month, we posted the teaser and poster art for the short film The Stylist by Jill "Sixx" Gevargizian. I recently saw the film at its world premiere during Etheria Film Night at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. As one of only nine short films screened that night --- tough odds by any means --- The Stylist stood out because of its poignancy, practical special effects, writing, acting, direction, editing, and beautiful cinematography (lensed by Robert Patrick Stern). The echoing, melodic score from Nicholas Elert elevates the film even more.
And I'm not alone in my adoration for this film --- it won both the Jury Award and the Audience Choice Award, which sent Gevargizian into a mild state of shock. The awards are well deserved --- the film is THAT good. Produced by The Line Film Co. and written by Eric Haven (based on a concept from Gevargizian), The Stylist stars Najarra Townsend as Claire, a hairdresser waiting for her last client. Mandy (Jennifer Plas) who's a bit late, isn't particularly demanding, but does request to "look perfect" for her big work event --- a probable promotion is at stake.
So while Mandy imbibes her complimentary salon glass of red wine (love those), Claire gets to work and makes magic of Mandy's golden tresses --- and then Mandy promptly passes out. That's when Claire really gets down to business. The Stylist is another of those short films where to say to much would be to spoil the film for future viewers, and that's something I'd rather not do. So let's just say that there's an absolutely cringe-inducing FX gag (by Colleen May assisted by Philip Spruell) that's done very wel. The added sound design may make you pull yourself up into a ball and grab a certain part of your body --- the one that corresponds with what's being desiccated onscreen. I'm still shuddering thinking about it.
What ends up happening is more or less an updated version of Maniac, if the antihero of that film (and its remake) was a beautiful stylist with some serious issues. And for me, that was the best part --- Townsend plays the lead with such subtlety, humanity, and anguish --- that you're rooting for her even as you've seen what she's done and what she's capable of doing. Then there's the added touch of Claire's pup Pepper, who plays herself (she's Gevargizian's pet in real life). The tiny dog watches Claire, seemingly wondering what mess her owner has gotten into, and it's ridiculously adorable.
Gevargizian has accomplished what few horror directors have --- a film with terror, art, and heart. The Stylist does a wonderful job of making you care for its characters, rather than just cheer on the body count. You'll be hearing more from Gevargizian in the future --- she's a serious talent who's made an enormous jump from her previous shorts, such as Grammy, Police Brutality, and Call Girl. I can't wait to see what she does next, and if you're a development executive, you'll be paying attention, too.