What do you get when you take a biting satire of the art industry, mix in some slasher- film set- pieces, a sprinkling of Lovecraft, and deliver it with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face?
You get Netflix’s latest original movie Velvet Buzzsaw, directed by Dan Gilroy and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, and Zawe Ashton.
The story follows an eccentric cast of characters, including Gyllenhaal’s snobby art critic, Russo’s disillusioned gallery owner, Collette’s elitist collector, and Ashton’s ambitious curator.
When Ashton’s neighbour dies in front of her, she discovers a treasure trove of paintings hidden in his apartment. She takes them for herself and decides to use them as leverage to kick-start her own career. However, it soon becomes clear that the artist had a good reason for wanting them destroyed.
As I said earlier, this movie is anything but subtle Each character is almost cartoonish in their eccentricity.
Gyllenhaal is probably the biggest example – there’s a whole scene where he criticises the music and even the coffin colour at a colleague’s funeral. Given the nature of the film, however, this isn’t as big of a drawback as you’d think.
The whole point of the film is to satirise the absurdity of the modern art scene and is thus equally absurd in its delivery.
Velvet Buzzsaw harkens back to ’80s and ’90s slasher flicks which tried to incorporate over-the-top gruesome death scenes with a veneer of social commentary (and is about as successful at pulling it off). If you keep that in mind while watching, a lot of the acting makes sense.
For all its it’s attempts at high-brow criticism, Buzzsaw is a slasher- film at its heart and thus it lives and dies on its death scenes. Thankfully, these are some of the best parts of the entire movie.
Each death is satisfyingly gruesome and most are pretty darn creative, presenting their victims with an appropriately ironic end.
While it’s easy to guess which characters in any slasher will live and die, how they go has always been half the fun – and this film delivers in spades.
While I enjoyed this movie, I understand that it might not be for everyone. Slasher fans may be put off by the pretentious characters and the long wait until the action starts and those looking for a nuanced critique of modern art will be put off by the hammy acting and sudden tonal shift once the blood starts flying.
Despite all that, Velvet Buzzsaw is still lots of fun.