Ghosts, demons, clowns, and serial killers have been the staples of horror movies. It’s the basic horror movie formula that has been perfected and ruined many times. They feed in our physical fears. However, as the genre evolves, more filmmakers are looking at psychological horror, which messes with our minds and finds new horrors that are hidden in our everyday lives. Think of Get Out, Hereditary, Babadook, or The Haunting of Hill House. The new sub-genre of horror is becoming increasingly popular and the newest addition to the collection is Velvet Buzzsaw. Directed by Dan Gilroy, the Netflix film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalia Dyer, John Malkovich, Zawe Ashton, and Toni Collette.
The film follows Morf Vandewalt, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who becomes obsessed with a deceased artist’s work, which is found by his lover, Josephina, played by Zawe Ashton. As more people find out about this mysterious artist and his work, other artists and art collectors become obsessed with his work. However, a supernatural force enacts revenge on whoever has allowed greed to get in the way of art. Strange deaths occur, mental states deteriorate, and brutal injuries occur. Whatever is behind this, does not want the art to be sold.
Behind the gory, brutal and disturbing scenes is the satirical take on the art world, because what is scarier than greed, capitalism, and bureaucracy. The film pokes fun at the greedy group of art elitists by juxtaposing brutality and violence because of their actions. The art world is a toxic place where artworks are more valued than others and true success for an artist is being seen by others. Everyone who comes in contact with the paintings are greedy consumers who care only about the value of the artwork and not the art itself, for which they should be punished for ruining the experience and fun of art. Think of it as a curse, which evokes films such as The Ring, Truth or Dare, or Final Destination.
While I admire the idea behind the film, the film still was a bit bland to me. While I do enjoy the traditional slasher gory film or jump scare reliant horror films, I like them when they are advertised as so. Velvet Buzzsaw, is an art satirical thriller with horror undertones, for which I expected more along the lines of Get Out or Babadook. The film still falls in the same conventions from horror movies. There isn’t any genuine suspense and it felt like it relied too much on shock value from the brutal and gory scenes. It’s a bit tired seeing the same kind of scare tactics in such a film, which films many mediocre horror films rely on. Another issue was that the film felt like Spider-man 3 (sorry to bring this up to anyone who is still traumatized); packed with so many characters, ideas, and subplots that the film is jumbled and underdeveloped. There was so much going on, but nothing seemed complete.
Despite its flaws, it was decently enjoyable to watch as at times it was unusual and funny. The film has a great premise, which could have been better with better development in some areas and relied less on cheap horror conventions to add shock value to a sub-genre of film that doesn’t need it. The film should scare you in a way that makes you question everything and be something you never thought of to fear.