The Stylist review – an insipid thriller three decades out of fashion

Peter Bradshaw
·2-min read

Sadly, nowadays there is no video for this to go straight to. Maybe someone should reopen a branch of Blockbuster just so a VHS copy can be ceremoniously placed in a bargain bin by the exit.

The Stylist lumbers heavily along as if it’s wearing deep-sea diver’s boots, a queasy mash-up of serial-killer nightmare with 90s-style Single White Female-esque thriller. The acting and directing are entirely terrible, the editing and pacing are so sluggish you’ll feel as if you’re going into a persistent vegetative state, the plot is tiresomely unthought-through, the split-screen shots don’t work and the musical score is so pointless and undifferentiated it sounds like elevator muzak. I do have to admit that the final wedding scene, with one particular cutaway shot of a beaming bridesmaid, does have a certain OTT outrageousness. But that doesn’t justify the price of admission – or of sitting through all that has gone before.

Najarra Townsend plays a hair stylist named Claire who is really good at her job. Her way with the scissors and other sharp implements, and her tender scalp caresses, sooth her customers. But she has a habit of offering after-hours haircuts in the salon, giving her customers a late-night glass of wine into which she’s slipped something, and taking Hannibal-style trophies. Then, slightly out of the blue – and this doesn’t really mesh with her creepy MO – Claire forms an obsession with one of her regulars, Olivia (Brea Grant), which this leads to something truly yucky.

Related: The Silence of the Lambs at 30: a landmark thriller of horror and humanity

Exasperatingly, this film fails to tell us something basic: how exactly is Claire moving and disposing of the corpses once she’s done her horrible number on them? Is she burying them? Keeping them in a freezer? One of her victims is the subject of “Missing” fliers put up around town – but later we hear that this same person is getting a “funeral”. So … they found the body? Or what? Either way, this movie has no vital signs.

  • Available from 1 March on Arrow.