Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Women in Horror: The Stylist

* spoilers *

Hair stylist Claire is working late at the salon, waiting for her last customer. She's obviously had a hard day and looks forward to going home and relaxing. Her co-worker leaves just as her client arrives. The client appears to be a high powered business woman eager to look perfect for a work function to finally get the promotion she so sorely deserves. The woman relaxes with a glass of wine and Claire goes to work. After her hair is finished, the woman falls asleep as Claire expects. Claire slices the woman's scalp off and sets it aside. The woman suddenly wakes up, panicked and in pain. Claire tries to soothe her in an odd way and kills her when she won't calm down. Claire takes the scalp home to her basement with her collection of other scalps. She lights her candles and puts on the scalp like a wig. Her neck has a rash that is usually hidden by her hair and it obviously pains her to look at it. The film ends as she pretends to be the woman, imitating her words, smiling, and crying into the mirror.

The Stylist is surprisingly deep for it's short length of about 15 minutes. Women are pressured to look beautiful and compare themselves to other women. The business woman is successful and ambitious on top of her beauty. Claire is envious of her power and confidence and maybe of her money . She seems to not consider her own beauty or success as a hairstylist. What she perceives as her flaw is hidden from everyone else. It could be that one part of your body that you just loathe or try to minimize and hide, but it may not necessarily be a physical attribute. The rash is largely symbolic of that nagging voice that always tells you you're not good enough or pretty enough, that inner fear and timidity underneath the facade. Outwardly, Claire seemed confident and put together. Inside and alone, she is unsatisfied, envious, and above all unhappy.

The scalp removal and murder of the business woman can also be linked to real life. Women sometimes tear other women down to build themselves up. Envy and unhappiness can make people lash out at others to feel superior, especially when social pressures and feelings of inadequacy are involved. Claire hurts the woman and steals what Claire views is her source of beauty. However, when Claire puts it on, she's a grotesque parody of that woman. Even her voice sounds fake on top of having another woman's bloody scalp on her head. Trying to copy another person and trying to take what makes them special never works out. Each person has different things that drive them and make them unique, as much as society tries to make us think that one type of person is better than another. To go against that is to turn into that same grotesque parody of someone else and be just as miserable as Claire is at the end of the film. Even though her actions are violent and terrible, they are motivated by her inner dissatisfaction that she isn't perfect or the societal ideal. Her process is very practiced and almost ritualized, showing that she has done this many times before.

The Stylist shows how nuanced and apt horror films can be. I think a lot of women can either relate to Claire or know women like Claire. I loved how Najarra Townsend portrayed her. It would have been easy to make her some sort of raging, psychotic person, but there was an accessible vulnerability to her. The ending in particular is so well done. The manic voice of her pretending to be perfect juxtaposed with her very real tears gives that nuance that makes a difference. The Stylist is a short worth your time, currenty available on Shudder.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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