There are few art forms that have the same power as the short film. In an age of binge-wallowing Netflix, Hulu, Prime, and Shudder, we’re used to consuming hours and hours of entertainment in a single gulp. While this is a great way to kill an evening, with all that back to back binging, one can’t help but notice, horror movies are often hurt by length. A roomy running time gives the viewer a chance to settle in too much, to get comfortable in a space designed to be anything but. We might see the monster too much, or our ever-shortening attention spans might take a leisurely stroll. There are a thousand snares between us and a good scare.
Jill Sixx Gevargizian knows the power of brevity. She has several shorts to her credit (including work on the Women in Horror Month’s Blood Drive campaign), but her latest outing “The Stylist,” will make you think twice about your next hair appointment. If I revealed anything more than that it tells the story of a quiet stylist and her last client of a busy day, I would be depriving you of a very pleasurable thrill. Quiet, lit as delicately as a porcelain teacup, point-blank brutal and with an ending guaranteed to make your scalp tingle, “The Stylist” shouldn’t be missed. Jill Sixx was kind enough to give us a short interview about the art of short films, so sit back, relax, but don’t get too comfortable…
Pennie Sublime: Where did you get the idea for The Stylist?
Jill Sixx Gevargizian: I’ve been a professional hairstylist for twelve years now, and the film is about a psychopathic hairstylist. And it really started as simple as that concept. I started to think a few years ago, why isn’t there an iconic hairstylist killer? We’ve got Sweeney Todd, but—you almost think there’d be, at least, a campy version of it. Like a “The Dentist” or “Dr. Giggles” version, kinda style. I went the more serious route. But it started like that, just kind of a thought. And then as we started to build it I started to realize I had a unique feel for it, obviously, because it’s a world I know well and I’ve been in it my whole life. And as we went along, as we made every decision, I would ask “What would a hairstylist do?” I wrote the outline for the story and then got together with my friend Eric Havens who writes with me and we built it from there.
PS: Do you have any plans to expand it into a feature length film?
JG: Yeah, actually Eric and I are working on writing that now. That was my goal from the beginning, I wanted it to be a feature, but it was only my second time directing anything and I knew I needed some more experience before I made that leap. Also, I figured the short will be a great thing to have while pitching the full length. So that is our goal. We want people to learn more about Claire and—we’re not so much going into her past as it’s a longer version of her ending, so to speak.
PS: The centerpiece of the short is a very grand guignol special effects sequence. Did a lot of research go into that?
JG: Yeah, there was. We spent a lot of time on preproduction building that. Colleen May spent weeks building our major prop and she studied what’s really underneath there. I can say that at one of our screenings, we had a nurse come up to us and tell us that’s really how it is, and that’s one of the greatest compliments we ever had. Because I watched every kind of movie where this kill happens, and it’s always done so quickly, and we do it very slow. We just spent a whole day shooting it. We got it the first time, thank God, because it was a four hour makeup appliance. And we didn’t really know what would happen, but it turned out perfect on camera. In fact, Najarra Townsend was kind of struggling as she does this, which looks perfect on camera because apparently that’s really how it is. Thank God she kept going because she wasn’t really sure what to do!
PS: Let’s talk about the ending. The Stylist concludes on a very uncanny, what I call “creepypasta-ish note”…
JG: I have a tendency to like tragedies more than traditional horror, which is where I was going with that ending. I like the type of films where we try to make you see into the villain’s mind versus seeing them from afar and being scared of them. And if anything feeling sad for them and still scared. I do like tragedies, and we were trying to say with the short that she’s making bad decisions, she’s killing someone who’s about to go to a party, she’s breaking down. It was our intention to show she’s gonna get caught. She’s at the end of her downward spiral. So our feature would kind of go before that. I guess I’m a sick person. I love really sad, really depressing movies, and I try to mix that with horror.