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Velvet Buzzsaw

“All art is dangerous.”

I really like Nightcrawler, so when I saw writer-director Dan Gilroy had a new feature, again starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, I was excited to see what they’d come up with. I saw the trailer and was immediately sold. A supernatural horror that takes place in the art world? Sign me up!

Velvet Buzzsaw appeared on Netflix at the beginning of this month, and I was thrilled that we didn’t have to wait long between the trailer dropping and the actual release.

Gyllenhaal plays bisexual art critic Morf Vandewalt; he’s pretty much your standard, bitchy art critic. We’re introduced to Russo’s art gallery owner, Rhodora Haze, a woman with a history in punk music who has betrayed her ethos in favor of money. Again, pretty standard.

Zawe Ashton is Josephina, a fledgling agent employed by Haze whose on again off again relationship with Morf complicates both of their lives.

When Josephina discovers the body of her neighbor, who turns out to be an incredible artist, she’s thrust into the elite world as his art becomes the “next big thing” and starts commanding huge sums of money.

The dead artist’s name was Ventril Dease, and he left specific instructions that his artwork be destroyed upon his death. As more and more people are exposed to the art, strange things begin to happen, and people end up dead. The spirit of Ventril Dease is inside the paintings, possibly due to the use of his own blood in the works.

As is evident, I really wanted to like Velvet Buzzsaw, but it fell short of the mark for me.

The art world is ripe for satire, but sadly, Velvet Buzzsaw just didn’t push boundaries far enough, nor was it witty enough to really make an impact. It features some inventive kills, but it lacks atmosphere. 

The performances are temperately good, but the characters are nothing more than clichés, and the film as a whole is largely forgettable and doesn’t have nearly as much to say as Nightcrawler did.

Toni Collette and John Malkovich were great choices as supporting characters, but that says more about their presence than it does about the characters, which are just as obvious as the leads.

Gyllenhaal is always watchable, so I was hoping for more of the creepy intensity he has in Nightcrawler, but that wasn’t meant to be.

Velvet Buzzsaw is worth a watch to explore stereotypes and intrigue, but if you were overly excited by the trailer, perhaps lower your expectations.

VELVET BUZZSAW is now available to stream on Netflix.

Moxie McMurder is a writer, poet, and film critic who regularly contributes to Honeysuckle Magazine. Based in the UK, she is the staff film critic for Garden City Cinema. The founder of Lead Jammer Magazine, Moxie’s work has also been featured frequently on MoviePilot and Medium. She is the author of the novella Blood Sings. Visit her blogs Moxie McMurder and A Shared Madness, and follow her on Twitter to learn more. 

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