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Velvet Buzzsaw marks the return to odd filmmaking revolving around psychology and the strange inhabitants of a particular industry. This film is the second that I’ve personally seen from Dan Gilroy, and it comes second to the, dare I say it, masterpiece that is Nightcrawler.
Dan Gilroy is the man who made me fall in love with Jake Gyllenhaal, because honestly prior to Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal flew under my radar; now he’s one of my absolute favorites. Gilroy created that masterpiece of suspense and transitioned to horror with Velvet Buzzsaw, but his transition was flawed. The film is similar to a character within, in that it displays a piece of art that doesn’t quite have an explanation behind it, and is made purely to be interpreted - however there’s not a lot of joy in doing so. The film is littered with irritating characters that are not only spoiled in the trailer as pieces of meat for the slaughter, but are nonetheless clearly designated to die. For example, imagine a film from the SAW franchise: you know that a majority of the characters are going to die, but the fun of it is to watch the ways they kill themselves within Jigsaw’s traps; similarly in Velvet Buzzsaw, this desire is just as much there. However the cursed paintings’ ways of killing and/or torturing their victims is never shown to full effect, and right before anything too graphic can happen (aside from a single scene) the scene fades away. This decision by the director creates a lackluster experience for horror lovers, as the atmosphere can’t hold its own to cover up for these lacking moments. There are still brilliant directing skills on display, they’re just much more hidden than how they were back in 2014 with all Gilroy’s skills on the mantel.
The plot of Velvet Buzzsaw is purposely supposed to be self indulgent in the pretentiousness of the art world. However, this ideology of the world being purely egotistical makes even the best character on screen feel like the worst human being. A film revolving around a cursed gallery of art that kills anyone who seeks to profit from its existence is an original premise worth seeing, but poor execution could be instantaneously dreadful, with a cursed collection of paintings killing the people who have tried to profit from their selling. The execution here isn’t dreadful, but it’s in crucial condition of being so fragile that with a few successful tweaks, the story would crumble to smithereens. The plot begins strong, but by the middle begins to become unhinged, only to end with a conclusion that needed much more of a push into something worthwhile for the runtime. Several loose ends plague the story, and that’s to do with the unnecessary accessories that are the side characters and their stories fading out just as fast as their purpose to begin with.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Velvet Buzzsaw is quite literally buzzing with characters, and almost none of them are memorable enough to describe their function in the film. The only three who leave a slight impression are characters played by Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, and Zawe Ashton, all of whom never manage to capture much of a memorable characteristic. Every character in the film, aside from an assistant character are all snobs, acting as though they are too good for this world, and this character trait being featured all around is heavily numbing to the brain. While there are certain actions and dialogue used that make Gyllenhaal’s Morf the best of the worst, it’s still not enough to levitate the material above a certain degree. Enter with a desire to see as many of these people slaughtered as possible, and maybe you’ll come out in an adequate state; if only they’d get murdered faster.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
This is a soundtrack filled with recycled ominous tones and hardly anything else. Every second is fueled with repetitive moments that exceed my every expectation of Gilroy. Every jumpscare is revealed ahead of time by the score, and the scares altogether are predictable moments ahead of their appearance due to the poor choice in instrumentals. The sound design is just as unsurprising, apart from a few fantastic moments of art coming to life such as a robotic “hobo” man which is revealed in the trailer. His use of crutches is surprisingly horrific, and the sound of leaking paint from the canvas is just as awe provoking as the events that come after are frightening to an unprecedented degree because of the build up that has been created. Even with these highlights, the irritating score overwhelms and considerably blocks out any good the rest can manage.
The visual style of Velvet Buzzsaw is excellent, as it takes the theme to bizarre territories. The art pieces themselves are well executed and are believable as pieces that could be cursed, yet popular among the art world. The moving images are depicted horrifically yet slightly predictably - some movement is left unexplained, but its representation is still a sight to behold. Essentially any art can come to life through the cursed artist who created the pieces placed for sale, so any work of art at any time can spring to life and kill - this isn’t utilized extraordinarily well however. Near the film’s conclusion, an art gallery appears and the art hanging within captures one of the best and surprisingly gruesome scenes in the film - a sign of what the remainder of the film could have been. The costume design and representation of the people held so highly in the art community is appealing, overstyled, and appear as though they belong in the scene - makeup, costume, and effects are all pluses among the mediocre others.
Velvet Buzzsaw isn’t exactly what the trailer promised us, sure it’s a horror film revolving around pieces of cursed art, but the dominant style that took place within the trailer is severely lacking in the film. Forgettable performances, a flawed story, and a hidden talent behind the camera - Velvet Buzzsaw needed a little more time in the studio to make sure the strokes hit the canvas properly.