« Ruby in Paradise | Main | Yiddish »

March 01, 2021

The Stylist


Jill Gevargizian - 2020
Arrow Films

Jill Gevargizian made The Stylist because she had not seen a horror film about a hair stylist. In some ways her film has a few similarities with Roman Polanski's Repulsion. While the older film is about a manicurist, both occupations are jobs that are usually done by women on behalf of other women in the name of beauty. The two films share moments where the presence of a male is psychologically disruptive. Polanski's Carol and Gevargizian's Claire progressively become more deranged, though both filmmakers have chosen not to provide more than the barest of hints as to the source of their respective traumas.

What Gevargizian brings to her film is both her own professional experience as a stylist as well as a perspective that would be more likely absent from a male director. Claire is a youngish woman whose victims are primarily her after hours clients, women whose lives appear more exciting than her own. Claire takes on the personality of her victims by donning their scalps, all neatly removed with surgical precision. What Gevargizian does is devote part of her film to the actual job of being a hair stylist, giving it the kind of attention some horror filmmakers would only use a kind of gimmick. A montage of Claire at work almost becomes fetishistic, but what is conveyed is the sense of intimacy involved. The contradictions of the job are given their visual correlative where the requirements are both a degree of physical intimacy simultaneous to a professional relationship. Especially where small talk sometimes reveals personal information, the line between work and friendship become blurred for Claire.

The last chapter of the anthology, Women Make Horror is devoted to women who started out as "fangirls" prior to making horror films. It may be a few years before there are more films, filmmakers, and a deeper examination into this phenomenon with genre filmmakers who do not necessarily have formal filmmaking backgrounds. In Gevargizian's case, she has a history of presenting horror films in her home of Kansas City, Missouri, as well as making several short films, available to be seen on Vimeo. The film was shot entirely in Kansas City with local actors. For myself, it was unnerving to see that lead actor Najarra Townsend looks very much like the writer/director.

In any case there is no question that Jill Gevargizian is ready for the big leagues, this is an especially polished debut feature. This is especially made clear in the use of the split screens with Claire texting with client turned victim, Olivia. There is also one nice use of dividing the camera frame with Claire on the left side of the screen, hidden by a shower curtain, while another woman enters and leaves on the right hand side of the frame. I will be curious to see where Ms. Gevargizian goes from here.

The Stylist is currently available to stream through the Arrow app in the U.S. and Canada, and Amazon Prime/Arrow in the U.K.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 1, 2021 05:27 AM