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Stylist, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The First Cut Is The Deepest."
4 stars

“The Stylist” is a horror movie, make no mistake about it, but it is not quite the Grand Guignol-style grossest that one might assume it to be after hiring its premise. Instead, it is a more ambitious dive into the mind of a character who has clearly undergone so much psychological damage throughout her life that most viewers will find their hearts constantly breaking for her, even during the times when she is driven to unspeakably brutal acts.

This person is Lauren (Najarra Townsend), a lonely and withdrawn young woman who works as a hairstylist and who carries a terrible secret—she is occasionally compelled to lure an unsuspecting customer into staying after hours to get their hair done, slip something into their complimentary glass of wine and then scalp them, bringing the trophies back to the home she used to share with her late mother (a hairdresser herself) in order to wear them. One of her regular clients, Olivia (Brea Grant), has just had the hairdresser hired for her wedding bail and she begs Claire to take the job. Though she usually avoids such gigs, Claire finally agrees and finds herself making perhaps the closest thing that she has ever had to a genuine human connection, even going so far as to attempt to literally lock away her homicidal impulses. Unfortunately, while Olivia is friendly enough to Claire, she is so consumed with her upcoming wedding (and the attendant jitters) that she doesn’t quite recognize the depths of Claire’s neediness until it is perhaps too late.

Although there are plenty of grisly bits on display in “The Stylist,” writer-director Jill Gevargizian clearly has a lot more on her mind here than simply offering up viewers a gender-flipped riff on the Herschel Gordon Lewis grindhouse chestnut “Color Me Blood Red.” A former hair stylist herself, she clicks right on that odd and perhaps slightly unnerving sense of forced intimacy that can develop between stylist and client during their time together—one that becomes all the more unsettling when you realize that one of the participants frequently has a pair of scissors aimed at the other person’s head. She is also far more interested in getting into the head of Claire in order to show a sense of empathy for her despite the things that something deep inside compiles her to do. As long as the film stays on this track, it is fascinating to watch, especially the strong, strange and ultimately touching turn by Townsend that will remind genre buffs of the performances delivered by Sissy Spacek in “Carrie” and Angela Bettis in “May.” It is when the film shifts away from being a pure character study at times to let the narrative take center stage that things sometimes get a bit wobbly—certainly indelicate details regarding body disposal and police investigations are handled in a somewhat slapdash manner and while the finale certainly fits in with everything that has preceded it, it just doesn’t quite pack the punch that it should have.

However, those faults are more than balanced out by Gevargizian’s skills behind the camera and Townsend and Grant’s in front of it and make “The Stylist” worth checking out. Just don’t be surprised to find yourself getting just a little bit hesitant the next time you sit down for a trim.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=34150&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/01/21 10:53:36
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USA
  01-Mar-2021 (NR)

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