Dan Gilroy’s horror film based in the art world is the latest big Netflix release. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, and Zawe Ashton as various players in the art world who discover the paintings left by an elderly deceased man, which leads to horrific consequence for those involved.
As a horror film the first thing that anyone will jump to is usually ‘is the film scary?’ and honestly there’s never much in Velvet Buzzsaw that’s scary, not even jump scares. However the numerous deaths that occur in the film are incredibly imaginatively done and frequently get quite grizzly, without ever becoming gratuitous in the levels of violence and gore.
And Velvet Buzzsaw is as interested in what it has to say about the world of art and commercialisation of art as it is with being a horror film, and that is where Velvet Buzzsaw is at its most interesting. The horrors that unfurl in the film happen to those who were attempting sell or profit off the artwork in some way. We also see that much of the works of art they were selling tend to be soulless and superficial, suggesting this is how Gilroy suggest that many art products that are actually made and publicised are.
And the cast that Gilroy works with is superb. Having previously work with Gyllenhaal on what may be his greatest performance ever in Nightcrawler it was no real surprise to see Gyllenhaal back working with Gilroy, and he’s deliciously over the top as unfulfilled art critic Morf Vandewalt. Both Russo as gallery owner Rhodora Haze and Ashton as agent Josephina are excellent as well. The supporting cast is stacked with Toni Collette, Tom Sturridge, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, and John Malkovich are appearing in reasonably large roles.
It is a shame though that Gilroy’s screenplay doesn’t always put them to the best of use. The film feels as though it lacks any really flow to, appearing more as a collection of well crafted and acted scenes that is held together by a couple of throughlines. Events and character decisions happen rather out of the blue, and then nearly as abruptly are dropped a couple of scenes later. It feels jarring at times, and definitely keeps Velvet Buzzsaw back from reaching the glorious heights that Gilroy managed with Nightcrawler.
Given some of the films that Netflix have put out over the last year or so have not been of great quality, Velvet Buzzsaw is probably a better effort for one of Netflix’s highly talked features thanks to a great cast, some interesting ideas, and Gilroy’s creative art themed deaths. So whilst it may be far from perfect Velvet Buzzsaw is certainly an entertain watch.