Politics may be going to hell, but there’s a damn good argument that this has been one heck of a week for women. And what better way to continue the spirit of things with an excellent dose of female-driven horror?
The Stylist is a 2016 short film directed by Jill Gevargizian and stars the wonderfully mesmerising Najarra Townsend (Contracted) as Claire, a shy hairstylist with a rather unappetising hobby.
Like many of my favourite horror films from the past year, The Stylist builds at a steady pace and refuses to spoil its viewers – all while being absolutely gorgeous.
The premise is a simple one. Claire stays late at her salon one night waiting for her last client. After Mandy arrives for appointment, Claire gets to work after giving her a glass of wine. By the Claire finishes the blow drying Mandy’s hair, the client has become unconscious.
Claire is quick to action and scalps her victim – taking her treasure home with her in a bucket. When she goes to her basement (which is a room that would make Buffalo Bill proud), she is surrounded by various mannequin heads wearing the hair of other women.
The climax comes slowly, and quietly. Claire tucks up her hair and pauses at her scarred neckline. But she dons the new scalp and keeps repeating to herself, “I need to look perfect.” She becomes distraught and perhaps a little remorseful for a moment before gaining her composure. She begins to talk like Mandy, until she really nails her delivery.
In it’s simplicity, The Stylist delivers a message that is really all-too relatable. And that’s really how you make a good villain. It’s how Ezra Cobb manages to be revolting while making you pity him with a story that is real.
Claire is horrifying, but really, she’s just enacting what so many people feel inside: a desire to have something or be someone you are not. People put themselves under a knife to achieve these, is it really that much farther to take the knife into your own hands?
Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if this film isn’t to everyone’s taste. Subtlety doesn’t work for everyone. But if you can admire someone who can make a washing hair unnerving, give The Stylist your time.
The Stylist is available to stream on Shudder UK.