“The Antithesis Of…”: Dr. Lauren & Darren Review “The Stylist” (2020)

Dr. Lauren McIntyre is a horror obsessive, tattoo connoisseur, natural Goth and cat wrangler. Trips to the hairdresser now seem much more sinister for Lauren. Say hi to her on Twitter: @noddinggoth

Darren Gaskell is a horror obsessive and “enthusiastic” karaoke performer. Few people believe that Darren had very long hair once, but it’s absolutely true. Say hi to him on Twitter: @darren_gaskell

THE STYLIST (2020)

Starring: Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant, Laura Kirk

Writers: Jill Gevargizian, Eric Havens, Eric Stolze

Director: Jill Gevargizian

Darren: This time out we’re reviewing the brand new release from Jill Gevargizian. It’s the feature-length version of her previous short The Stylist. We were both part of the Kickstarter for this one.

Dr. Lauren: Yes.

Darren: So we got to see the finished version recently as a bonus for backing the project.

Dr. Lauren: Did you see the short film?

Darren: I did see the short film and that was pretty much the reason I went in for the Kickstarter. I wanted to see what could be done with a feature length version.

Dr. Lauren: Yeah, me too. I watched it on Shudder a while ago and I was really impressed with it. I was interested to see where they’d take it as a feature. I think it paid off.

Darren: I have to say that if I’d backed something on Kickstarter and it turned out to be shit, I wouldn’t be saying how fantastic it was just because I’d backed it. I’m glad to be able to report that it’s very far from shit, in fact it’s brilliant.

Dr. Lauren: Would you say it’s the opposite of shit?

Darren: It’s the complete opposite of shit. It’s the antithesis of shit.

Dr. Lauren: I’m sure that Jill will be glad to hear that.

Darren: That’s going to go on the poster – “It’s the antithesis of shit”.

Dr. Lauren: Jill, that’s a quote for your Blu-Ray box.

Darren: It starts in the same vein as the short. The main character Claire, played by Najarra Townsend, has a customer in the salon where she works. It’s late at night and Claire gives her a little more than a short back and sides.

Dr. Lauren: The short is more or less the first five or ten minutes of this but it’s not the short just refilmed. The story develops from there. We get to know more about Claire and then we get to meet one of her clients called Olivia, who’s played by Brea Grant. I have to say, the two leads are both bloody amazing.

Darren: They both bring an initial contrast because you have Claire who’s very shy and unsure and Olivia who seems pretty confident and together but as things go on you find out things are not quite as rosy as you think.

Dr. Lauren: Right. They both play complex characters and both of them do a great job. The material they’re given to work with is really rich. The performances delve into that and make the most of it. I really like Brea Grant anyway, she’s great in everything I’ve seen her in, she’s wonderful. Najarra Townsend totally knocked it out of the park, I’ve not seen in her much apart from the short.

Darren: Najarra Townsend is amazing. I’ve seen her in things like Contracted…

Dr. Lauren: Oh, I have seen her then! I’ve seen Contracted, I just didn’t realise that was her.

Darren: I’m not going to say that she’s anything other than good in everything else but this is in another league. She’s so great in this, she gets the entire performance spot on. To elicit that level of sympathy for someone who is essentially a murderer….that’s quite a skill.

Dr. Lauren: I felt a huge level of empathy with Claire at various points in the film because she’s just so lonely. She has no self-confidence, no self-esteem. I really did feel for her for quite a lot of the film. As well as these two brilliant performance, the supporting cast all did well. Then there’s the filmmaking. The look of it, the feel of, everything about it is just great. It looks amazing.

Darren: The cinematography is jaw-dropping. I watched it on a decent TV and I was blown away with how it stunning looked on there. God only knows how good it’s going to look on a cinema screen.

Dr. Lauren: I’m interested to see that. The colour palette was really great, it fluctuates between autumn colours and bright, kind of giallo-influenced colours. It certainly feels quite like a giallo in places.

Darren: For the stalking sequences the vividness of the colours is turned up but when you get to see Claire at home in her solitary existence everything is more muted. It’s very cleverly done. For a debut movie this is astonishing.

Dr. Lauren: I’m just so pleased for everyone who worked on it. Every single person has done such an amazing job and it shows how much of a labour of love it was.

Darren: You can see the care that was taken. Every single frame of it looks gorgeous, the music’s fantastic – the Nicholas Elert score is so striking. There are really nice touches all the way through, there’s a lovely split-screen sequence where you can see Claire and Olivia going about their business at the same time. You can compare and contrast what they’re doing. It’s full of cool little things like that.

Dr. Lauren: I loved the look of the sets. I know a lot of the locations are functioning businesses in Kansas City where it was filmed. The hairdresser’s is actually the hairdresser’s where Jill works.

Darren: I believe it’s Bob And Shop.

Dr. Lauren: The other places, like Claire’s basement, contain so much detail and from how that space is set up you can tell so much about her just from the stuff that’s in there. I loved that.

Darren: The basement sequences have a flavour of Maniac about them.

Dr. Lauren: For sure, yes.

Darren: It’s not a slavish rip-off of Maniac by any means. It just nods to it enough without it being, erm….I was going to say wanky…

Dr. Lauren: I was gonna say wanky!

Darren: Great minds think alike.

Dr. Lauren: It all builds up to this final scene. I must admit that I did figure out what was coming before it did but that took absolutely nothing away from it at all. That final scene was mind-blowing.

Darren: Weirdly, it kind of helps if you know what might be coming because you get to that point where you think “They’re not going to do this…..are they?”.

Dr. Lauren: I was pretty much shouting at the screen. I was like “No! No! Don’t do it!”.

Darren: Which is a good thing. That’s part of horror, when you desperately want something not to happen at the end because you know it’s so grim and they still go ahead and do it anyway. On one level, it’s horrible, yes, but on another it’s sort of fun in a very dark way and kind of what you want as a fan.

Dr. Lauren: It was great. I can’t wait to see it again.

Darren: I can’t wait either. In 2020, there’s been tons of really strong horror stuff and it’s going to difficult to narrow it all down to a Top Ten this year. Having said that, this is easily going to be in there.

Dr. Lauren: I was going to say this is probably going to be in my Top Five for the year.

Darren: There’s no way we’re going to get to the end of 2020 without this being in my top horror movies of the year. It’s that good.

Dr. Lauren: If you asked me to name my Top Ten horror films of the year right now I’d struggle because I’ve been working all day and my brain’s fried but The Stylist has got to be in there. There’s going to have to be some storming stuff at Celluloid Screams and other festivals for that not to happen.

Darren: Oh yeah. The last couple of months are going to have to be full of classics for The Stylist to get pushed out. Quickly going on to reviews, most of them have been very good but I’ve seen a couple which said there’s not enough happening in it, especially the middle section. Well, okay, I’m taking that on board, I can see where they’re coming from but you need that middle section to increase that depth of characterisation for Claire. She can’t just go around scalping people. You wouldn’t really get under the skin of her otherwise.

Dr. Lauren: To be honest, I didn’t feel like it sagged at any point. There was no place where I felt my attention wandering or I was bored because I was so engrossed in the characters and what was going on. I don’t mind a slow burner if it’s interesting and it was captivating learning about the characters.

Darren: Exactly. You’re not always sure where it’s going to go next and you need to spend that time with both the main characters because it makes the payoff all the stronger.

Dr. Lauren: So, what would you score it?

Darren: Before that, I just have to mention that there’s an awesome Jill Sixx cameo in it.

Dr. Lauren: Yeah! And Pepper! Don’t forget Pepper!

Darren: Pepper is the true star of The Stylist. Bold cameo from Jill Sixx, though.

Dr. Lauren: Yeah, that was really good.

Darren: So, the score….

Dr. Lauren: Yes?

Darren: I’m gonna do it. I’m giving it five out of five.

Dr. Lauren: Really? Whoa. I’m going to give it four and a half because I do tend to save my fives for things on The Wicker Man pedestal.

Darren: I understand and that’s fine but I am absolutely in love with this film.

Dr. Lauren: Aww! Well done Jill and the team.

Darren: Yes. Great movie, can’t fault it, really want to see it again.

THE SCORES

Dr. Lauren: 4.5 / 5

Darren: 5 / 5

About celluloiddeej

Film fan, horror festival goer, karaoke enthusiast, cat whisperer, world traveller, complete idiot. Happy to chat with you on your podcast/whatever if you can stand the Yorkshire accent.

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