Fashion and pop music often complement one another. In fact, the appeal of many pop acts is as inextricably linked to their hair and clothing style as it is to their music. Maybe more so. Then it’s not surprising that two hair stylists are at the center of this story about a struggling musician in L.A. After all, in music, getting the hair right in publicity shots — the proper wind-blown, pseudo bed-head look that took hours to sculpt — is of paramount importance.
David Tangiers (Harley Di Nardo), a rock musician who’s also a hair salon owner hires a wannabe stylist to trim locks in his trendy salon. The wannabe, Javy (Adam Reeser), is a washout in the coiffure biz, but as it turns out he’s got a knack for writing songs. We also learn that he’s not the nebbish he seems to be.
“…two hair stylists are at the center of this story about a struggling musician in L.A.”
The film’s opening scene takes place in a nightclub where David and band are doing their thing. No live-on-film performances here, the actors lip-synch to a prerecorded track. The joint is obviously a set, and it has a homemade feel to it, which is kind of fun. There are a few fans and one heckler. Javy endears himself to David by taking care of the heckler.
Then the action moves to more realistic settings — a hair salon, an apartment — and the film loses the make-believe charm it seemed to promise. Over the course of it’s approximate 70-minute running time, we take a few tentative steps into a kind of magical realism. Dawn (Carla Wynn), one of David’s business associates, has an inexplicable psychic event in which she sees a dark omen ahead. We also get a peek into the psyche of an unsound mind via some satanic sound effects and a wardrobe change. The special effects are strictly low budget, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But they’re more in synch with the homemade nightclub set. When played out in a realistic setting they’re harder to accept and distracting from the movie.
“…driven by a combination of the reliable motivators: ambition, envy, greed and a desire for revenge.”
As the story progresses we get our first inkling that all is not well when, one evening, Javy stands alone in the dark, watching a female employee lock up the salon at closing time. Lurking in the shadows isn’t his only odd and frightening extracurricular activity. Later, there’s a scene that bears more than a passing resemblance to one in The Silence of the Lambs. Clearly, he’s no Boy Scout.
Things get more complicated when David’s wife, Cecily (Samantha Smart) gets swept up in the madness that envelops the three principal characters as Javy starts to unravel. This leads to a standoff and a struggle to the death.
The story is a well-worn one, and the characters are quirky, but their interactions are mostly flat. The thin plot is driven by a combination of the reliable motivators: ambition, envy, greed and a desire for revenge. All of which seems appropriate for the notoriously rough music business. But Dead Envy seldom rises above its stock story plots and underdeveloped characters. Perhaps a story about the hairstyling industry would’ve had more of an edge, pun intended.
Dead Envy (2018) Directed by Harley Di Nardo. Written by Harley Di Nardo, Stacy Hullah. Starring Harley Di Nardo, Adam Reeser, Samantha Smart, Carla Wynn, Joey Medina, Brandon Don Heath, Pearl Charles, Chrissy Bonilla, Bobbie Brown, Arnil Pabalan.
5 out of 10 flaming Stratocasters