An elaborate fontange in the making, being fussed over by an impatient hairdresser: the opening shots of Medusa Deluxe, establish an urgent rawness that accompanies the final beautiful result. Mixing the simmering tension at a hairdressing competition, with the dread of a killer on the loose, Medusa Deluxe presents an impressively immersive murder mystery. Stitching together the emotions that run common: uncertainty of how things will unfold, the anxiety of being close to the losing side, and growing distrust, in his debut feature, Thomas Hardiman brings to the fore a unique visual experience.
How interesting can a regional hairdressing competition get? Emotions run high, hairsprays run low, and a complicated chignon is redone. Only a murder in the mix can pull the hairdressers away from the models. Mosca (John Alan Roberts) is long dead by the time we are introduced to his competing hairdressers. Found scalped, by his model, who had stepped out just for a moment in the middle of her seven-hour-long updo, even Mosca’s murder was an event that waited for him to take a break from his masterpiece. So, one can imagine the frustration that runs along the venue where his competitors are now forced to wait till they are questioned. As models roam around with half-finished styles, and scissors are packed away, gossip finds its comfortable spot in this murder mystery.
Medusa Deluxe (English)
Director: Thomas Hardiman
Cast: Clare Perkins, Darrell D’Silva, Harriet Webb, Heider Ali, Kae Alexander, Kayla Meikle, Luke Pasqualino, and others
Run-time: 101 minutes
Storyline: Participants at a regional hairdressing contest find themselves embroiled in a murder mystery when a contestant is found dead
A little over an hour and a half, director Thomas Hardiman teams up with cinematographer Robbie Ryan, and editor Fouad Gaber to construct an intricate grapevine of a film. Medusa Deluxe’s greatest strengths lie in how a simple murder premise and the immediate conversations that surround it are brought to life visually. Medusa Deluxe’s greatest trick lies in convincing us that the whole film is one long take without any cuts. The camera snakes around, following each seething hairdresser, each nervous model, and one frazzled organiser, as they move around in a labyrinth of a venue. Speculations are birthed in one room, and transported to another across neon-lit hallways and dingy stairwells. Through all this, the camera devotedly follows the messenger and the message, as if following the thread in an excruciating game of telephone.
Without spoiling the ending, it can be concluded that the film’s secrets are not complicated, which is why it succeeds in executing a complex series of events. Hardiman, who also wrote the film, fleshes out the characters less through their isolated actions and more based on what and how they communicate. Sometimes it almost feels like they are aware of someone observing them, of a camera following them. Hardiman is able to create some interesting dynamics in this tense situation: two hairdressers implying that the other might be responsible as they determine whether Mosca might have won this year; a hairdresser and a model discussing Mosca’s unfinished work, wondering whether he would have been able to pull it off; Mosca’s partner hearing the news from Mosca’s ex, also the organiser of the event. Dispersed in this thick air of suspicion is Hardiman’s humour, the choicest insults featuring Pantene and TRESemmé are lobbed enthusiastically.
Precise and engaging, Medusa Deluxe crafts a wholly unique experience for the audience. Not leaning into the sophisticated beats of a crime procedural, it tunes itself to the all-encompassing uneasiness of horror. The film creates its own rapt audience since seemingly they are the only ones witnessing each secret unfold. Making the most of the environment of its choosing, Medusa Deluxe is a worthy, stylish entertainer.
Medusa Deluxe is available for streaming on Mubi