Release Date(s)2020 (June 8, 2021)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A
Made independently on a minor budget, The Stylist takes obvious elements from films like Maniac and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to tell its story of loneliness and murder, but it’s much more than that. It’s also a window into the psyche of a damaged woman in a world that deems her disposable. We go through her journey with her, never fully on her side, but always struggling with her actions and hoping for a different outcome for her. She’s a sad, introverted, and broken person, and not just a generic serial killer. Her drive to kill in a life where she endeavors to find normalcy, ultimately leading to obsession, is where the tension of the story emerges. It can be genuinely unnerving and quite tense at times, but it also shows enormous restraint. We don’t get all of the details, including her backstory, which works in the film’s favor. It also offers a slow pace, which isn’t an issue as this an introspective character study about a person who just happens to be a murderer, but it could have benefited from a few minor trims along the way. In any case, The Stylist is a fascinating film that’s gorgeous to look at with a homicidal leading character who’s more complicated and magnetic than most.
Claire (Najarra Townsend) is a withdrawn hair stylist in Kansas City. Besides living a lonely single life with her dog, she also drugs certain clients after hours and scalps them. Dumping their bodies and bringing home trophies to wear while looking in the mirror, she constantly battles with her own identity and her loneliness. One of her regular clients, Olivia (Brea Grant), asks her to do her hair for her upcoming wedding. She initially refuses but gives in. Olivia then invites Claire into her home, where they spend some time together. Claire then becomes obsessed with Olivia, slowly making her way into her life, but at the first sign of disappointment, her need to kill returns. As Olivia’s wedding slowly approaches, the tension mounts as Claire is more and more murderously driven to not just be accepted by Olivia, but to finally achieve acceptance and happiness.
The Stylist arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video presented in high definition in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Shot digitally, the most rewarding facet of this presentation is its color palette, which is rich with deep, bold hues. The film is highly stylized and uses swatches of bold color as part of its visual style, featuring a variety of purples, blues, reds, greens, and oranges. In that sense, it’s extraordinary to look at. Blacks are deep with good shadow detail and contrast levels are ideal. Detail is a tad softer and flatter than a film-sourced presentation would warrant, but it still flourishes with a thick and luxurious quality. In essence, it’s a beautiful presentation.
The audio is included in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. The surround activity on this track is considerably scant, meaning that only key sequences and occasional ambient moments stand out. The film’s minimalist score, comprised mostly of piano and industrialist ambiance, comes through with excellent clarity, blending quietly into the background for additional atmosphere. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise while sound effects have a clean and meticulous quality. There’s also good low end response, particularly during the club scene in the middle of the film. It’s definitely an above average track.
The following extras are also included in HD:
- Optional Introduction by Jill Gevargizian (:44)
- Audio Commentary by Jill Gevargizian and Najarra Townsend
- The Invisible Woman (20:14)
- Behind the Scenes: Short to Feature (22:07)
- Behind the Scenes: “WTF Claire?” (10:47)
- Behind the Scenes: “Olivia” (4:02)
- Behind the Scenes: Women in Film (3:38)
- Behind the Scenes: Film Family (6:32)
- Behind the Scenes: Designing The Stylist (10:02)
- Behind the Scenes: Filming in KC (5:28)
- Behind the Scenes: Kansas City Chiefs! (3:29)
- Location Scouting (4:12)
- Outtakes (6:31)
- Original Kickstarter Video (2:30)
- The Stylist Short Film (14:58)
- Pity Short Film with Optional Introduction by John Pata (9:01)
- Teaser Trailer (1:03)
- Trailer (1:46)
- Production Stills Image Gallery (5:40 – 34 in all)
- Location Scouting Image Gallery (7:40 – 46 in all)
The audio commentary with co-writer and director Jill Gevargizian and actress Najarra Townsend is a lively discussion between the two as they watch the film together, discuss how they feel about it in retrospect, and their experiences making it. The Invisible Woman is a visual essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas about the film and women’s various roles in horror films over the years. The excellent and informative behind-the-scenes segments feature interviews with Jill Gevargizian, co-writers Eric Havens and Eric Stolze, actresses Najarra Townsend and Brea Grant, director of photography Robert Patrick Stern, production designer Sarah Sharp, and editor John Pata. Location Scouting features a series of test photos for shots in the film and compares them with the end result. The Original Kickstarter Video features Gevargizian discussing who she is and her goals for making the film. The Stylist short film, also directed by Gevargizian with the same cast and crew, is an obvious springboard for what the feature would eventually be. Pity, with an optional introduction by director John Pata, is a project also made by some of the same crew. The Production Stills and Location Scouting image galleries consist of 80 stills total.
Also included is a CD soundtrack featuring 8 tracks of the film’s score and music, as well as a 28-page insert booklet with cast and crew information, The Stylist: A Curious Case of Mistaken Identity by Emma Westwood, Location Scouting/Final Film Comparisons by Jill Gevargizian featuring test photos and the final result, a soundtrack track listing, and transfer information. Everything is housed inside a clear amaray case with double-sided art featuring two styles of artwork by Sara Deck within a slipcover.
The Stylist, while excellent in its own right, signals what could be the beginning of a career for a fledgling filmmaker with a keen visual sense and a talented crew to back her up. Arrow Video’s release is highly commendable with a lush presentation and a surprisingly excellent extras selection. Fans of minimalist horror will definitely want to check this one out. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons