I have seen many odd movies in my time, but one recently that really takes the cake. Over the past weekend, I watched Netflix’s newest original thriller, Velvet Buzzsaw. I was not really sure what to expect going in other than paintings and murder. Overall, it was just really, really weird. Spoiler alert for the rest of the article, I’m going to be diving right in to explore the strange and morbid world of contemporary art.
Velvet Buzzsaw, written and directed by Dan Gilroy, stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Toni Collette, and Natalia Dyer (Nancy in Netflix’s hit show, Stranger Things). Gyllenhaal plays Morf Vandewalt, a pretentious, bisexual art critic who can build up or break down any artist with his reviews. Russo plays Rhodora, a gallery director with her assistant, Josephina who is played by Ashton. Gretchen, played by Collette, is the museum curator of the film who loves to crush everyone around her. Dyer’s character is Coco, a sweet midwestern girl who just wants to move up in the art industry, but always seems to find herself screaming over dead bodies she stumbles across throughout the film.
The story follows the art of a virtually unknown dead artist that ends up being possessed and out for blood. Near the beginning of the film, Josephina discovers the body of the artist, Ventril Dease, in her apartment building and then discovers his art in his apartment, taking it to learn more and figure out just who he was. Morf discovers just how tragic Dease’s life was, full of abuse and pain. The pain Dease went through eventually led him to create all of the art the gallery claims is “to die for,” (pun not intended).
When finding themselves alone through the story, most of the characters are murdered in brutal ways by the art itself. Many scenes feature the art coming to life and moving on the canvas which is extremely terrifying to me, a scaredy cat who has never watched a horror movie all the way through. Even the music during these scenes freaked me out. The creepy factor of the film is an A+ in my book.
Though I love Jake Gyllenhaal and pretty much any movie I watch him in, his character irked me most of the time throughout Velvet Buzzsaw. Morf, Rhodora, Josephina, and Gretchen seem to only care about themselves and how they could make more money or become more famous and popular in the art scene. The only character I actually ended up caring about was Dyer’s character, Coco. I felt bad for Coco always trying to do her best and end up only finding dead ends (pun definitely intended).
Coming up with the moral or theme of the film feels too easy and shallow. Simply put, don’t be pretentious. The whole reason the art comes to life to murder people is that someone thinks he or she is better than everyone else in the story. Josephina is murdered by becoming a piece of art, covered in paint as graffiti on the wall and no one else seems to care. Fitting for how she was trying so hard to be noticed and now going completely unnoticed. While trying to dispose of some of Dease’s paintings in a storage facility, Morf is murdered horrifically by a robotic sculpture named “Hoboman.” The sculpture literally chases him down a hall until he reaches a dead end and snaps his neck after saying, “I can’t save you.” Sorry, Gyllenhaal. The final kill of the film, Rhodora, is the most surprising and bloody. Be prepared.
After watching the film with a friend, I asked her what she thought of it. Brenna Wiens, a junior here at Greenville said, “That was not what I expected whatsoever. I wanted more murder and less ego from the characters.” I had to agree with her opinion. I definitely could have gone without seeing a nude Jake Gyllenhaal to add more murders and creepy aspects. Ivy Lyons also watched the film with some friends and said, “I give it a solid 8.7 out of 10. I was confused the entire time.”
For anyone who loves eerie atmospheres, Jake Gyllenhaal going insane, and pretentious artists, Velvet Buzzsaw is your kind of film. Watch your back next time you visit an art gallery and don’t stick your arm in any weird art pieces or get a buzzsaw tattoo on the back of your neck, I’d hate for you to lose your head.
Media by Emily Hogue.