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[Fantastic Fest] ‘The Stylist’ review: Strong performance carries personal thriller

Cuttin’ headz.

The Stylist is an introspective horror movie based on the 2016 short of the same name. The movie follows Claire, the title character. After styling an upcoming bride’s hair (Brea Grant), she decides it is also time for a change in her life. Najarra Townsend is fantastic in the lead role. The Stylist is unsurprisingly told through her point of view. Through her actions, the audience is privy to her thoughts. Claire’s descent is captured perfectly due to Townsend’s performances.

Townsend gets across the loneliness and awkwardness of Claire perfectly. It is immediately clear to the audience the type of person the stylist is. She comes off as shy and aloof. Townsend brings personality to her character that makes her relatable. She can be funny and charming. Maybe the audience is not like her, but they know someone who is.

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When short movies are made into features, it is usually noticeable. There usually has to be an obvious effort to stretch out a short story into something longer. This is certainly the case with The Stylist. There are many scenes that go on for a long time with no cut. These drawn out scenes hamper even the most important moments of the film.

Director Jill Gevargizian makes some interesting choices behind the camera. Early on, there is the use of split screen in The Stylist. While there is a neat moment involving bringing two moments together, it ultimately brings little to the film. More impressive is the use of lighting. The use of reds, pinks, and blues highlight moments and emotions. It also brings added life to the subdued story.

[Fantastic Fest] 'The Stylist' review: Strong performance carries personal thriller

The Stylist moves at a deliberate pace. The slow burn works great here as the audience watches how each moment affects Claire before her breaking point. The story is quiet and even introspective and very engaging. Claire remains interesting even after those watching may think they have figured her out. This all culminates in one of the more satisfying endings seen this year.

A great performance can go a long way. Najarra Townsend is the glue that holds The Stylist together. The Fantastic Fest world premiere has a lot going for it, including a well told story and inspired directing. There is enough tension and gore to satiate fans of scary films. But it is its lead that helps the story become more than just another slow burn horror movie.

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