Jill “Sixx” Gevargizian, “The Stylist” (2016)
Never did a psychotic serial killer look more fragile or seem so worthy of our compassion and sympathy as Claire (Najarra Townsend) working in a hairdressing salon and waiting for a late-running client. Claire appears a very helpful and kind hairdresser who doesn’t mind staying back and keeping the salon open for a special client. She offers a glass of wine to Mandy (Jennifer Plas), the late businesswoman client to help relax her while Claire washes, dries and brushes her hair for a special evening event that Mandy is hosting for her boss. Mandy hopes that this special favour she does will help elevate her career so she has to look “perfect”. Little does she realise when she sits down in the seat before the mirror that Claire has other ideas for Mandy … or rather, Mandy’s perfectly coiffed blonde hair …
The story is beautifully told with atmospheric, melancholy music and a cinematographic style that at times distances the two women, as Claire attends to Mandy’s hair, from the viewer at unusual angles, bird’s eye point-of-view among them. To some extent this mitigates the horror once Claire pulls out a pair of scissors to start working on Mandy once the customer has fallen unconscious. Some viewers may find the body horror quite gross and others may find it laughable. Special mention should be made of the climactic scene that takes place in Claire’s home which she shares with a pet chihuahua: the boudoir, lit by soft romantic candlelight, is furnished with an array of wigs of various colours sitting on model heads, and all of them with tell-tale brown lines around the edges. Donning her recent blonde acquisition, Claire stares at her reflection in the mirror, tries to imitate someone but fails, and begins to cry.
The character study of a shy lonely woman with deep-seated psychological issues, who finds refuge in work that is clearly unfulfilling, and who may even have a deep-seated hatred of apparently successful and wealthy women (even though these women also suffer in their work lives, simply because they are women and must work twice as hard as their male colleagues to prove their worth) is intriguing. Townsend was born to play Claire with her expressive face over which a thousand emotions flit and each and every one of those registers with the viewers. Unfortunately the film does not provide Claire with a motive or a background that would plausibly explain why she does what she does and how and why she works in hairdressing even though her heart is not really in that type of work. What is the anguish, the inner torment, that drives Claire to scalp her customers and take their hair for her own without compensating the women?
As it is, the film with the basic plot and sketchy characters can only offer hints of possible themes and motifs that should become clearer in a future movie feature in which Townsend will reprise her role under Gevargizian’s direction. Loneliness, the need to be accepted for what one is, the competition between women for love, success and recognition, the influence of the past on people’s present decisions and behaviours, obsessive actions, revenge and the fragility of one’s identity may be likely themes that will help to flesh out Claire and other characters, and to shape the plot.