VELVET BUZZSAW is the latest film from director Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler) and is a wild ride through the highbrow art world with a supernatural edge. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods), Toni Collette (Hereditary), John Malkovich (Bird Box), Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things), Daveed Diggs (Blindspotting), Zawe Ashton (Nocturnal Animals), Tom Sturridge (Mary Shelley), and Rene Russo (Nightcrawler).
When Josephina (Zawe Ashton) stumbles upon a trove of undiscovered paintings created by her recently deceased neighbor, ‘Dease,’ who has no legal heirs, she claims his work for herself. To introduce Dease to the art world, she partners with legendary gallery owner Rhodora (Rene Russo). Capitalizing on this dead man’s work becomes their mutual obsession, but as famed art critic Morf Vaderwalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) investigates Dease’s past, he soon unearths uncomfortable truths that result in deadly consequences.
I truly believe that sometimes a film is tailored made for us in that it speaks to our soul in a way that few other films can. For me, the last couple of years have been filled with memorable films that have left me disturbed, shaken, and excited for the future of the horror genre. Even though we are just at the beginning of 2019, I was anxiously waiting for the next film to elicit a strong reaction and luckily I found it in VELVET BUZZSAW. To better understand why this film rocked my world, you need to understand me a little bit better.
Besides having my hands in all things horror, my day job is an Interior Designer. I’ve grown up doing art my entire life, went to school to study art, and have now made it into a career that I love. I’ve been around artists who were incredibly humble and gracious and I’ve been around artists who were the encapsulated the definition of being a giant dick. Going into this film, I knew very little about the premise outside of it focusing on the competitive contemporary art world and I can’t stress enough how important it is to go in knowing as little as possible. For me, combining the art world with the horror world was everything I could have hoped for and more and it was done in a way that was bloody, humorous, and ruthless.
The most fascinating aspect of this film is the personalities presented. The majority of these people are not likeable, in fact, they are quite punchable; however, we get to see their comeuppance happen in the most artistic fashion possible, which is kind of ironic if you think about it. The film does a fantastic job of showing the sleazy side of the art world with a focus on money and the price people are willing to pay for these perceived exquisite pieces of art. This ends up begging the question: how much is art really worth? Is the price determined because of the talent? Or is it determined by outside factors with a more selfish agenda? At the end of the day, art is subjective, but in the world of VELVET BUZZSAW it’s more about status and false praises in hopes of finding/securing/profiting off of “the next big talent”.
When the horror does come, it’s quite jarring. Again, I hadn’t watched the trailer prior to the film, so I wasn’t prepared for the more surrealist acts of violence that occur. However, when they do, it’s hard not to feel like they might be somewhat validated. If you have not watched the trailer I urge you not too as it gives away major plot points and scenes that are much better experienced without already knowing they are coming. One of my favorite lines in the film is when Rhodora remarks that “art isn’t meant to be safe” – which, to an extent is true, but at what cost are you allowing it’s destruction to continue? I think this is what I enjoyed so much about VELVET BUZZSAW – the ability for the film to make me question how I, and others, perceive art and the effects it can have on people – for better or worse.
Overall, I think it’s quite obvious that I thoroughly enjoyed VELVET BUZZSAW – it’s not perfect, but that’s what I really love about it. The performances were stellar and the direction in which each character changes over the course of the film was subtle enough that it seemed incredibly realistic. I don’t think this is a film that’s going to be for everyone and that’s okay, not all movies have to be, and just like art, they are subjective, but I think it’ll gain a hearty cult following in time. More importantly, I think there’s a lot for horror fans to appreciate, especially considering some of the more inventive kills; whereas, art lovers will either come to have a love/hate relationship with these characters or maybe even see themselves in them. Either way, this is definitely a film that’s going to raise eyebrows and get people talking, and I, for one, look forward to reading people’s reactions in the days to come. Make sure to check out VELVET BUZZSAW when it’s released on Netflix February 1st at http://netflix.com/velvetbuzzsaw.