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Jill Gevargizian
Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant, Davis DeRock
Writing Credits:
Jill Gevargizian, Eric Stolze, Eric Havens Synopsis:
A lonely hair stylist's obsession with her clients fuels her descent into madness and violence.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 6/8/2021

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jill Gevargizian and Actor Navarra Townsend
• Introduction from Writer/Director Jill Gevargizian
• “The Invisible Woman” Visual Essay
• Eight “Behind the Scenes” Featurettes
• “Location Scouting” Featurette
• Original Kickstarter Video
• Two Short Films
• Outtakes
• Trailers
• Image Galleries
• CD Soundtrack


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The Stylist [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 1, 2021)

Fledgling authors hear that they should write what they know, and apparently filmmaker Jill Gevargizian took that to heart for her feature film debut. A hairdresser for years, Gevargizian offers a fictionalized, horror-based take on that career via 2020’s The Stylist.

Based on Gevargizian’s 2016 short film of the same title, Stylist introduces us to Claire (Navarra Townsend), the titular hairdresser. She lives alone with her dog Pepper and seems to feel pretty lonely.

Claire also lives vicariously through her clients, a trait that takes a sinister turn. More than a little mentally unhinged, Claire kills some of the women who visit her.

Claire literally scalps these victims and takes him their hair so she can role play as them. When client Olivia (Brea Grant) treats her kindly, Claire attempts to resist these psychotic urges but struggles to alter her routine, partly because she becomes obsessed with her “new friend”.

Of course, female psychos aren’t unprecedented in the world of horror, but they remain rare, especially if we delve into the world of serial killer flicks. Probably the most famous comes from Aileen Wuornos, a real-life murderer who became the focus of 2009’s Monster.

However, that movie acted more as a drama than a frightfest. True horror stories based on female serial killers remain rare.

This places Stylist in an unusual category, but not one that exists in isolation. Indeed, one will find ample evidence of cinematic influences.

When we see Claire ensconced in her basement with another woman’s scalp on top of hers, it becomes impossible to ignore comparisons to Jame Gumb from Silence of the Lambs. We also see ample nods toward flicks like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and others.

Despite those obvious connections, Stylist manages to feel like its own film, though admit I don’t know how much it has to say for itself. As I noted at the start, Gevargizian adapted the movie from her short, and Stylist often comes across like a brief narrative stretched out to feature length.

Elsewhere on this disc, Gevargizian states that she intended the short as a “demo” for the longer movie. While I believe her, I still think she didn’t find enough story and character material to flesh out 104 minutes of feature film.

Stylist really does come across as a sketch of a narrative and not something full-fledged. We get snippets of character material and momentum, but too much of the story seems stuck in neutral, as we wind up with repetitive and redundant scenes.

Sure, some of these illustrate Claire’s escalating obsession with Olivia and her declining mental state, but Stylist doesn’t flesh out these domains in a satisfying manner. These segments tend to feel like filler, as if Gevargizian and the others involved needed padding to stretch to 104 minutes and couldn’t come up with much to take up that space.

Stylist also lacks much to say that I could call original, as it feels like an amalgamation of its sources. In addition to the serial killer movies I mentioned, we get helpings of “obsessed weirdo” flicks such as Single White Female. These ensure a fairly trite set of characters and situations.

I do find it interesting that Stylist casts a gorgeous woman like Townsend as the insecure, self-loathing lead. This brings a twist, as she fantasizes about the lives of women less attractive than she, which seems like an intriguing notion.

And Stylist doesn’t “frump up” Townsend either, as the movie allows her to look stunning throughout its running time. This creates a spin on the “unpopular loser” role we would usually see.

Stylist manages to offer an unusually professional-looking film given its low-budget roots as well. The movie pulls off a great sense of style and an artistic impression.

Unfortunately, not much else about Stylist finds a creative path. Right through its completely unsurprising “shock” ending, we find a project with potential that it doesn’t quite fulfill.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

The Stylist appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a pretty solid presentation.

Sharpness worked well. A few slightly soft shots crept in along the way, but most of the movie offered appealing accuracy and delineation.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Source flaws also failed to occur.

Colors went with a fairly warm palette, one that leaned toward reds, ambers and oranges. The Blu-ray reproduced these in a vivid manner.

Blacks seemed deep and dense, while shadows appeared smooth and clear. I felt pleased with this strong transfer.

Though appropriate for the story, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack lacked a lot of ambition. The mix tended to focus on ambient material, so don’t expect a lot of involvement from the soundscape.

Music tended to remain a gentle influence, and effects usually went for an atmospheric vibe. While these seemed appropriately rendered, they didn’t bring a lot of auditory pizzazz to the tale.

Audio quality seemed more than satisfactory, as speech appeared natural and concise. Music showed warm, resonant tones.

Effects didn’t get to do much, but they came across as accurate and without distortion or other concerns. Again, the soundtrack lacked great sonic impact, but it felt fine for the narrative.

When we shift to extras, we can watch the movie with or without a 44-second introduction from writer/director Jill Gevargizian. She gives us a welcome to her passion project.

We can also view the flick with an audio commentary from Gevargizian and actor Najarra Townsend. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters and the adaptation of the short, cast and performances, makeup, hair and costumes, music, editing, influences/inspirations, sets and locations, and connected domains.

Though it starts a bit slowly, this becomes a good chat as it progresses. We find a pretty useful overview of the production and even get fun notes like how the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl victory parade impacted the shoot. Expect a largely satisfying commentary.

With The Invisible Woman, we get a 20-minute, 14-second visual essay from critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. She discusses female-made horror and female serial killers in films. This becomes a fairly interesting and introspective chat.

Eight Behind the Scenes featurettes span a total of one hour, six minutes, four seconds. Across these, we hear from Gervargizian, Townsend, Townsend, co-writers Eric Havens and Eric Stolze, director of photography Robert Patrick Stern, production designer Sarah Sharp, editor John Pata, assistant director Tom Allan, costume designer Halley Sharp, and actor Brea Grant.

The featurettes examine the original short and its development into a full-length film, pre-production, cast and performances, the female-oriented nature of the flick, crew, sets, locations and design choices, photography, and shooting in Kansas City.

Though erratic, the featurettes mostly work well. The first few seem especially strong, and they become iffier after that, but we still find enough good info across the lot to make them useful.

Location Scouting runs four minutes, 12 seconds and shows a mix of movie clips and photos of the places used for the scenes. It could use narration, as it seems less than involving.

Next we find six minutes, 31 seconds of Outtakes. These show the usual mess-ups from the shoot.

The movie’s Original Kickstarter Video lasts two minutes, 30 seconds and offers the clip Gevargizian created to recruit funds for the feature. It becomes an interesting addition to the set.

Two short films appear: The Stylist (14:58) and Pity (7:08). This version of Stylist essentially equals the feature’s opening 15 minutes.

We do find some differences, though. In the short, Claire suffers from physical scars on her neck, and her first victim wakes up during her scalping. In addition, the short’s Claire comes across as perkier and more “normal” than the feature’s.

Nonetheless, the pair feel very similar. It’s interesting to compare the two and see the roots of the feature.

As for Pity, we meet a man who goes through a mental breakdown. Like Stylist, it offers better than average production values for a cheap indie effort but it lacks much narrative flow.

We can watch Pity with or without a one-minute, 53-second intro from director John Pata. He tells us about the short’s genesis and production. He lets us know how the project connects to Stylist in this decent opening.

In addition to two trailers for Stylist, we get two Image Galleries: “Production Stills” (34 shots) and “Location Scouting” (46). The former seem forgettable, while the latter largely repeat what we see in the “Scouting” featurette.

Finally, the set includes a CD Soundtrack. It runs 31 minutes and will become a nice bonus for fans of movie scores.

Aspects of The Stylist threaten to branch into areas new to the serial killer genre. However, too much of the movie borrows from prior films, so despite some positives, it seems padded and derivative. The Blu-ray comes with strong visuals, acceptable audio and a nice roster of bonus materials. Stylist comes with promise but it falls short of its goals.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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