There are few things more maddening than sitting through a thriller that should work, that has the requisite elements in place, and just doesn’t.
“The Stylist” is about a lonely, awkward and murderous hair dresser who drugs and scalps her victims, wearing their hair and play-acting their voices like Buffalo Bob in “Silence of the Lambs.” Tell me that isn’t a killer (ahem) concept.
Running with the “People tell their stylist the most intimate things” idea is a great hook, a “reason” for envy, resentment and revenge, at least according to murderous redhead Claire (Najarra Townsend) seems like it can’t miss. Director and co-writer Jill Gevargizian does miss. Why?
Pace. It always comes down to that in thrillers. You think you’re adding suspense by slow-walking us through scenes, slo-motioning the hair-styling montages. You’re not. You’re losing us.
With thrillers in general and horror in particular, once you’ve established the dread, it’s time to TCB.
We “get it.” Now “get ON with it.”
Once it’s established that Claire’s primary victim will be the frazzled but smart, professional and thoughtful bride-to-be Olivia (Brea Grant), the throw-down is set up. .
Bowl cuts for the bitchy bridesmaids? A little lethal snip-snip-snip at the rehearsal dinner? A grisly grooming of the groom? The possibilities are laid out, ripe for the picking.
Instead we linger over Claire’s tortured loneliness. We waste screen time on a succession of needy text messages, all this AFTER we’ve taken forever to set up our monster and her pivotal victim.
Townsend is a mainstay of B-horror and was in the short film this is based on. She’s an arresting presence without much to chew on here. Claire is more wounded than tortured, more brooding than psychotic. It’s an uninteresting performance which might not have mattered so much had this picture clipped by.
It doesn’t. So much was dispensed with — how Claire disposes of bodies and covers up her crimes, her mastery of breaking and entering. Why not cut the far less interesting stuff, the dead seconds after the payoff moment in most every scene?
There might be a solid 80 minute thriller tucked into the 104 minute dawdle. As I said, we get it. Get on with it.
Gevargizian never does.
MPA Rating:unrated, graphic bloody violence
Cast: Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant, Jennifer Seward
Running time: 1:44