Film Review: The Stylist-Final Girls Berlin Film Festival
THE FINAL GIRLS BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL finished the first of its 2021 events at the beginning of February. The festival is lauded for creating a space for celebrating women and non-binary filmmakers’ unique contributions to the horror genre. No doubt its second run this October will once again be full of horror films that reflect women’s lived experiences; for example, female perspectives on varied kinds of human relationships.
One such film exploring female “friendship” is Jill Gevargizian’s THE STYLIST, a film based on her 2016 short of the same name. The film expands on what was a gruesome and fun short that made the most of some scalp-raising practical effects. The feature length film keeps the blood flowing and elevates to an incredibly insightful slasher with the right mix of sincerity and comedy.
Claire is a socially awkward and highly anxious hairstylist who almost inspires sympathy until we find out that she goes full-on Buffalo Bill in her spare time. She has a little habit of making wigs from unsuspecting clients and escaping her reality in their personas. When one of her regulars, Olivia, asks her to be her wedding stylist, Claire latches on hard and descends into obsession and frantic violence.
Najarra Townsend (whom most horror fans will probably know from body horror gross-out CONTRACTED) reprises her role as the titular stylist. She gives us her best SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, and the results made me giddy. THE STYLIST channels the 90s thriller but modernizes it, and is far more brightly coloured and of course, gory. The film also stars actor-director Brea Grant, as Olivia- whose latest film 12 HOUR SHIFT also screened at Final Girls. Both women really brought out the humanity in their characters. Grant played well off the crazy Townsend was dishing out.
Gervargizian gives us such a fantastically tragic antagonist. I had to keep reminding myself that Claire is a literal Serial Killer whenever I felt myself growing attached to her. Perhaps I shouldn’t be admitting how relatable I found her lest I be put on some kind of watchlist- but Claire reels you in with her love of mustard colored dresses, cute socks, winged eyeliner and scented candle lit murder dungeons.
THE STYLIST is a film that is constantly working on many levels although it may not appear to be at first. Yes, it is splattered with blood, but it is also a drama exploring what happens when socially acceptable boundaries are broken. It invokes a nauseating amount of secondhand cringe. The film is a lot of fun, but it also features a nuanced representation of anxiety disorders and explores the psychological effects of having an unstable sense of identity.
Many films featuring a female villain tend to insinuate – see FATAL ATTRACTION, among many others- that their antagonist’s homicidal nature is simply due to a mythical hysteria embedded in women. One that automatically makes them prone to violent fixation. This is not the case with THE STYLIST, which clearly intends to break down sexist stereotypes and disengage from tired and misogynistic rhetoric with its thoughtful characterization.
THE STYLIST has a VOD and Blu-ray release this June, (but is streaming on Arrow Video next month). Though it’s still early in the year, I think it will surely stand out as one of the more stylish independent slashers of 2021.
“THE STYLIST is an incredibly insightful slasher with the right mix of sincerity and comedy”
4 Tombstones out of 5…