Fantasia Short Film Review: THE STYLIST
Currently set to screen at the 20th anniversary edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival as part of the diverse short film programming is one of the finest and finely crafted short films you will see this year. Featuring the talented Najarra Townsend (CONTRACTED), written by Eric Havens (CALL GIRL) and helmed by “Sixx Tape’s” fearless leader Jill “Sixx” Gevargizian, comes the tale of dark addiction in THE STYLIST. Premiering at the Los Angeles “Etheria Film Night” this past June and also screening as part of the Etheria road show at Days of the Dead. Gevargizian shows her range and direction artistry in the follow up to the cult favorite short film CALL GIRL. For me, I was not a fan of CALL GIRL even a little bit. I felt it was overhyped because of the casting and easy formula. I came in with real reservations on THE STYLIST because of the perception I felt Gevargizian gave off with that short film. This is a time I am proud and so glad to be wrong on what Gevargizian and writer Eric Havens created in this dark rabbit hole of psychosis in THE STYLIST.
With a foundation of authenticity reflecting each detail of this production (all the way down to the proper procedure of being a hair stylist), THE STYLIST is a that lovely and twisted mix of trick and treat for the viewer. The tale begins with the lovely hair stylist Claire waiting on a long time client for wash and blow out. As the client sits down talking about the party she is hosting and how the glass ceiling holds her back, Claire begins to work on her hair. As the wine begins to flow, the story unfolds into a tale of madness, addiction and perhaps mental instability? As Claire works on the client, we learn that Claire has a void to fulfill within her beauty and image, a dark emptiness that will take her on an emotional journey into the most fragile part of her need.
The great thing about THE STYLIST as a whole, is that it challenges you as well as entertains you. Watching this short film several times, my opinion, the questions I have formed and the focus on the details of the project keep evolving for me. It is a compliment from the production team as they show such respect for the viewer focusing attention to your heart and mind. Gevargizian and her crew do this in spades as we see the beautiful marriage of direction by Gevargizian and the talent of Townsend’s as the character of Claire offers vulnerability, connection and confronts some truly terrifying and honest realities in less than a 15-minute running time. Realities of who she is? What she has done? Also, what in her mind makes it alright to do this? These questions progress the narrative in a never rushed pace showing that richness of the performance and the depth of the character.
THE STYLIST offers a score (created by Nicholas Elert) that is the pulse of this short film. It reminds you of the lasting sounds of the 1950’s Hollywood that float and cringe on the canvas of the glowing and nostalgic production design by Sarah Sharp. The sound design (edited by Joe Meglio and mixed by James Peterson) is so effective offering one of the most brutal and cringe worthy moments that I have seen in quite a while. This impact moment is orchestrated by Gevargizian and innovate cinematographer Robert Patrick Stern (PITY) we work as well-oiled machine making sure all angles were covered, new angles found and perspectives that will grab the undivided attention from the audience. This is wrapped up by talented filmmaker and editor on THE STYLIST John Pata (DEAD WEIGHT) with his patience and skillful eye in working with an abundance of well-crafted footage, well-constructed visuals and a focused rough cut offering insight into a mind loss deep inside Claire.
While this short film for me is at the top of my list for 2016, it did however leave me asking for more. More being the reason why Claire does what she does? There is very little back story to the reason why Claire goes to the levels and risk as she does? What happens behind the curtain after Claire feeds her addiction as well as why Claire ends up in her final surrounds admiring her prize? I have no doubt Gevargizian and her team will answer that moving forward as this short film has all healthy intent to blossom into an even more sensory and twisted tale to captivate people. Filled with macabre beauty, potent color, carnal sound and lush sights that configures the rope tightening around you as the viewer, the “Sixx Tape” team offers us an experience that blew people away at the Etheria Film Night winning both the “Jury Prize” as well as the “People’s Choice” award. THE STYLIST is just the beginning and is the measuring stick for a complete production. From a team who loves the art of horror and filmmaking with each breath, make sure to schedule an appointment and come see THE STYLIST, just don’t ask her to cut it too close…