It’s always wonderful when an indie short film gets the greenlight to become a feature, especially when it was part of an anthology called Watch If You Dare [2018]; director and writer Jill Gevargizian along with Eric Havens and Eric Stolze (Late Phases [2014]) make sure to present a chilling, psychotic storyline of a woman who scalps women to feed her own madness and other strange behaviors. While some have tried to distance the film from the association of the slasher genre by attempting to invent a new subgenre (and perhaps it’ll catch-on) called social horror, however the phrasing is already becoming corrupted, the original intent to express the horrors of fitting in, i.e., socializing. These movies have already made it to the forefront such as Carrie [1976], Prom Night [1980] or Pledge [2018] to include terminology of bullying, humiliation, ostracizing and leading to revenge.

After a gruesome opening scene, that shows Claire (Najarra Townsend (Rock, Paper, Scissors [2017])) committing her brutality onto others the film slows down the pace and arranges the movie as if a deep study of a very unstable person, which the audience actually feels somewhat sorry for her. Overall, it seems to combine the provoking film American Psycho [2000] and Norman Bates’ sympathies from Psycho [1960] when one sees Hitchcock’s film for the first time; often the ‘killer’ commits unspeakable acts brutalism on their victims without any sense of human emotions, however when they do (a rarity) it can sway the viewer align with them on the briefest connection possible. She explains to a client that as a hair stylist her job allows her to meet a lot of people, however it actually gives her permission to her own psyche to mimic social dynamics and cover her extremely negative self-worth. She does have an interesting fetish of all-natural wig wearing techniques and gives a new message to scalp massage, which helps define her own absent personality. One of salon’s clients is Olivia (Brea Grant (Beyond the Gates [2016])), who is preparing for her fast approaching wedding and decides Claire is the perfect choice to do her hair and bridesmaids too. Of course, Claire is portraying looks of unsureness, it all means stepping out of her comfort zone and protective walls. However, Olivia, makes it impossible to deny the request, which leads to her even encouraging to hang out with her friends at a club. This leads to an interesting moment of the film, that shows a difference for both men and woman when chilling at a social club, which reveals more of Claire’s insecurities. Olivia is the typical self-obsessed bride, the world revolving around her however how that plays against Claire is wonderful to watch, to all it shows an incredible psychological depth in the characters, that helps to distance itself from typical slashers and move into the realm of a thriller. Often one believes that a thriller can’t show or portray brutality, that is far from the truth, one prime example is The Silence of the Lambs [1991], there’s plenty of ruthlessness though it is from a male perspective, nonetheless the film Monster [2003] which starred Charlize Theron proves that murderous tendencies do not limit themselves to one’s sex, they are equal. The third act does telegraph the conclusion slightly, but still how it ends is memorable for the viewer.

Gevargizian provides viewers with a quality intriguing feature debut layered in character study using some lighting, and wonderful backdrops and incorporates the split-screen in a refreshing manner.  Anyone familiar with the slasher genre knows that those films conjure visceral elements, sometimes repulsive to a few are often based in sexual frustrations, confusion, and it all piles on the mental fractures in one’s psychological id.  These are all aspects Claire struggles with each interaction brings more pressure to her incredible fragile shell, however she actually becomes the full-fledge monster devoid of all humanity, well perhaps a little bit. One must note Sarah McGguri (House of Forbidden Secrets [2013])) contribution while a minor role shows what some kindness can do is early enough in the cycle, this character has often been used in both films and television dramas, but it appears much more authentic.

While many have compared this film to Maniac [1980] and Scalps [1983] for obvious reason, I liken it to Single White Female [1992], which explores psychological disorders and possession of one’s life similar to Claire in this flick. Often when a film has a psycho raving lunatic, it primarily focuses on the gory aspects and the character driven motives become a one-liner mention, however equally compelling are the psychological thrillers which can contain gruesome horrors but work to build to a sense loathing the finality on these films. It’s also very good, when a movie takes a normal activity and twists it to work on one’s fear, many have visited a hair stylist, and confide in them about personal issue, but who are they really, that individual using the scissors around your ears, neckline, one wrong slice/cut, and you witness your own death. That’s an exquisite fear to generate and in the viewers’ minds, so just sit back and enjoy a slow-burn film from Arrow Video.

IMDb Rating: 5.7/10

Baron’s Rating: 5.5/10