Guillermo del Toro once noted that the best horror tales are those where the authors are obviously in love with the monsters at their center. The general truth of this aphorism is certainly borne out by Jill “Sixx” Gevargizian’s The Stylist, a superb short that will receive its local premiere on Saturday, September 24 as part of the Chicago Horror Film Festival. This 15-minute exercise in grand guignol stars Najarra Townsend (Contracted) as Claire, a hair stylist with a peculiar idea about how to make her last client of the day, a woman getting ready for an important work event, look perfect. That something is not quite right with Claire is hinted at early on but becomes explicit in a disturbing scene involving a practical special effect that I won’t spoil, but stands as one of the most memorable pieces of shock cinema I’ve encountered in recent years.
The Stylist’s most impressive special effect, however, is Townsend’s lead performance. Note, for example, both Claire’s anguish and genuine concern for her victim in the immediate aftermath of the scene alluded to above. Townsend and Gevargizian create a moment of astonishing emotional complexity that may cause some viewers to sympathize with a psychotic character against their own better judgment. The film also intriguingly invites a feminist reading in its depiction of the social expectation that all women face to “look perfect,” as well as through a dry line about glass ceilings being “a bitch.” One hopes this aspect will be further developed when The Stylist is expanded into a feature (as is Gevargizian’s plan). In the meantime, local horror aficionados cannot afford to miss this pungent short.
The Stylist screens as part of "Shorts Block B" at the Patio Theater on Saturday, September 24 at 1:15pm. For more information, visit the Chicago Horror Film Fest's official website.
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