Velvet Buzzsaw follows an assortment of pretentious characters (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich and Billy Magnussen) that feed off of the high-end art scene. After discovering a gold mine of a deceased/deranged artist's masterpieces in his rundown apartment, their greed and deception inevitably lead to the works of art enacting violent judgment upon the group.
Velvet Buzzsaw Review
Velvet Buzzsaw takes its sweet time getting itself going, at least from a horror perspective. It makes sure to establish the despicable cast of characters first, convincing us that even the most relatable of characters are as vile and selfish as the rest. Even though I find myself tapping my foot waiting for the horror to kick in, I found myself most entertained by the satire of the art industry in hindsight. I found myself laughing far more often than gasping in fear or disgust, in a similar fashion to the subtle wit of Murder Party's critique of the hipster scene.
The cast is perfectly chosen and executes even better, highlighted by Gyllenhaal's incredible performance. They all fill their roles to a point that it feels like they are also poking fun at their own acting/filmmaking industry along the way, like a severely toned-down Tropic Thunder. The strength of the film lies in these sequences, as the horror, though regularly touted amidst critics, is essentially secondary to its satire.
The horror sequences are fine and good, but their intensity in cinematography and direction is limited and held in check by the primary focus of the symbolism of the dark consequences of the victims. Basically, the horror doesn't feel as much like a vehicle, as it does an excuse to kill characters representative of an industry of people we think are terrible examples of humanity.
When the kills start to kick in, it feels too tame for the build-up we've "endured", in the sense that we know they're coming and we expect them to be great. The kills are unique in the sense that they all involve art in some way, but even then I wouldn't call them terribly creative in execution, as much as in subtle symbolism.
To that end, that is my greatest critique of this film. It starts off with such fantastic satire of the art industry and its pretentious, pompous personality, but then derails as it nearly came full circle on being overblown with its artistic metaphors. It almost became the thing it set out to make fun of. Ultimately, it doesn't, and Velvet Buzzsaw ends on a pretty great dark comedy punchline. It's inevitably headed towards the top-10 horror movies list for 2019, but I haven't yet decided if that's on a whim or on principle.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 8/10