The dream team that brought us the brilliant crime thriller ‘Nightcrawler’, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and director Dan Gilroy are back with new satirical Netflix horror ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’. Set in the contemporary art world of Los Angeles the film follows several high profile members of this scene including the formidable critic Morf Vandewalt, Gyllenhaal and gallery owner Rhodora Haze, Russo. After the discovery of a collection of paintings from a previously unknown artist their world quickly becomes a dangerous art arena with everyone vying for a piece of this new found talent.
The cast starring here is one of the most exciting ensembles we’ve seen for some time with performers such as Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer and John Malkovich portraying supporting characters alongside the more prominent billings. In addition to this the setting for the film allows for a fantastic range of characters, some presented as eccentric with others proving more cutthroat. Watching this eclectic mix of individuals interact with and attempt to best each other is entertaining to no end and even without the addition of the horror elements could have provided the basis for a great film. The cast are largely to thank for this, bringing with them their strong screen presence and lively performances. As expected Gyllenhaal and Russo are standouts but the allocation of time to the other performers is well managed allowing for an even spread of character perspectives allowing each their moment to shine as the film’s main attraction.
Gilroy, writes as well as directs here and his screenplay has a playful concept blending satire and horror in a devilish mixture. Neither are particularly complex but they don’t need to be as they will keep audiences enthralled and for the most part are executed well. It would have been easy for the premise here to come across as naff, and whilst to some it no doubt will Gilroy does well to keep the film as credible as possible considering its content. His screenplay includes some wonderful moments of satirical humour and horror which he uses effectively to deliver his point, his overall concept feeling like a hybrid of ‘Black Mirror’ and ‘Final Destination’. The horror isn’t anything especially terrifying so don’t be expecting any sleepless nights, but you might look twice at the pieces of art hanging over your bed. Nonetheless the film’s running time breezes by which has become somewhat of a novelty for Netflix and whilst on that topic ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ is comfortably the best new film they’ve released this year.
Approach the film with your mind as a blank canvas ready for Gilroy to paint you a picture of twisted and thrilling theatre and you should be left satisfied. Could he and the film have gone further with its premise? Yes. However the concept presented is compelling enough as it is and the diverse cast and collection of characters compliment the narrative consistently. The final product paints far from a pretty picture but it frames this horror with a generous brush stroke of fun which should hopefully pacify its harsher critics.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 8/10
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