Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

velvet buzzsaw poster 2019 movie
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting : 6/10
Visuals: 7/10

Interesting visuals and idea

Never develops, under-uses good cast

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Velvet Buzzsaw

Studio:  Netflix

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  January 27, 2019 (Sundance)/February 1, 2019 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

Art is life. Life becomes death. Death becomes art…

The art scene is buzzing.  Josephina (Zawe Ashton) has discovered the art of a man named Vetril Dease who has just passed away.  Rather than destroying the art as requested, the art goes on display…but things start happening.  The art seems to move and take on a life of its own.  Art critic Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) is researching Vetril’s past and discovering horrors have plagued the artist through his life, and Morf is about to discover that art can live on!

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, Velvet Buzzsaw is a horror suspense film.  The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released by Netflix on February 2, 2019.  The film received mixed reviews.

The trailer for Velvet Buzzsaw was rather intriguing.  It was very undefined and other than “killer art”, it really didn’t explain what the film was about.  The trailer worked in that I was interested enough to watch Velvet Buzzsaw…unfortunately, the film remained undefined.

velvet buzzsaw hoboman jake gyllenhaal

I’m still hoping for the further adventures of Hoboman

Dan Gilroy was going to make the film Superman Lives (which had its own story turned into the documentary The Death of “Superman Lives”:  What Happened?), and Velvet Buzzsaw spun out of his frustration.  Taking Altman’s ensemble cast as inspiration, Gilroy tries to present a sprawling story of horror.  Unfortunately, the movie comes off as a cheesy Night Gallery episode (somewhat literally) that feels like an undercooked Twin Peaks.  It could have maybe worked better as a mini-series where the characters were developed.

It is too bad because the cast is rather strong.  Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Tom Sturridge, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Natalia Dryer, and Zawe Ashton are the major players in the film, and the story jumps between them, but the characters never really develop.  They aren’t cardboard, stock characters, but they aren’t individuals…they just feel like fodder for interesting deaths.

velvet buzzsaw josephina kille zawe ashton

She comes in colors everywhere…she’s a rainbow!

Visually, the movie has its moments.  Some of the deaths are interesting and the visual are somewhat clever, but due to the script, it never feels like they are as good as they could be.  I love things like the paint cover Zawe Ashton, but the payoffs of the characters becoming art rarely works (even when it is explicitly stated like with Toni Collette’s fate).  It feels like “living on” as art should have been the punishment for the characters and that somewhat is explored, but not enough.

Velvet Buzzsaw just never makes it over the hump.  I think it has the right idea and the right direction, but the story needs to either be expanded or contracted to make it work.  It also feels like it cannot commit to its genre.  It feels too afraid to be a horror movie but also doesn’t build enough to be a suspense thriller.  It does succeed in leaving the viewer as a disappointed critic of the art.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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