One of the best shorts I had the opportunity to see at Spooky Empire’s film festival, The Stylist is, well, stylish. This does the best thing a short film can do: It feels like a feature. It doesn’t feel like it was made with limited time and limited resources. It’s polished, beautifully shot, with a terrific lead performance from Contracted’s Najarra Townsend.
The film follows a young woman who is a hair stylist. And at first, she seems like any other good stylist. She appears to be a warm, welcoming woman who is good at her job. That’s one of the things I love most about The Stylist. Right off the bat, it establishes this place as a safe, welcoming environment in an effective but subtle way.
Obviously, it doesn’t turn out to be nearly as inviting a place as it first appears. The woman getting her hair done keeps going on and on about this big party, about what she wants, while the stylist (Townsend) has to stand there and listen to all of it. She has her own agenda, though.
As soon as the woman passes out from some drugged wine, our stylist Claire is able to go about her real work. She starts scalping her client , taking the hair to use for herself. When the woman wakes up screaming, Claire is naturally forced to murder her. This scene plays comedic, which I definitely appreciated, but also introduces us to who her character really is. Not the face she puts on for customers, but the person she’s allowed to be when she puts the ‘closed’ sign in the window.
Short films need a singular focus in order to work and that’s where The Stylist really succeeds. Every single moment in this short is character driven. Everything moves it toward an end that feels rewarding, that allows us to see the character in her element. And these moments all feel like they reveal something about Claire, even when she’s trying to mimic and act like other people.
Ironically, one of my favorite things about the short and the character of Claire is that we’re told nearly nothing about her. This is something a great short can pull off that many features could really benefit to learn from. Everything we learn about Claire comes through the performance. We don’t have the slightest clue why she scalps her own customers and we don’t need to. Explaining plot and/or backstory would only take us out of the movie with such a short running time.
The Stylist is definitely a short that shows a promising film career ahead for director Jill Gevargizian. It not only makes me want to seek out and watch her other shorts, but definitely shows that she can handle a feature. There’s a clear showcase of rising horror talent in The Stylist that makes me want to see more from everyone involved.
WICKED RATING: 7.5/10