Dan Gilroy is the writer and director of Nightcrawler, the neo-noir thriller that is widely regarded (in my opinion too) as one of the best films of recent years, and now he has come to Netflix with his latest flick, Velvet Buzzsaw. The film is a great satire of the art world that offers fantastic thrills, but ultimately (as my horrendous pun suggests) dribbles down to the plot of Final Destination in an art gallery.
Velvet Buzzsaw is a Horror Comedy Thriller (you know, that classic genre…) and is fantastically original. The film centres around a “group of people in the high-class art world, who all decide to buy the artwork of a recently deceased artist…with dire consequences” (Netflix’s worlds, not mine). The ensemble cast in this are all fantastic. Jake Gyllenhaal leads as the bi-sexual art critic Morf Vandewalt, with Rene Russo (another Nightcrawler alum) as gallery owner Rhodora Haze, and supporting characters from Hereditary’s Toni Collette, Fresh Meat’s Zawe Ashton, Stranger Things’s Natalia Dyer and a criminally underused John Malkovich.
The story is a bizarre twisting plot that starts as a satire of the art world and ends in a strange supernatural affair that has been utterly ruined by the trailers. The narrative, spattered with Final Destination influences, felt mildly disappointing from a film with such a unique premise, and a director with such an original mind.
The films aesthetic is absolutely stunning. Shot by legendary cinematographer Roger Elswit, it has a gorgeous glow that radiates from the screen. The characters are all brilliantly designed and there are many recognisable stereotypes of inhabitants of the art world, with great costuming amplifying these caricatures. I also really enjoyed the visual effects of the film, which blend painted art and realistic figures in a disorientating manner.
The thrills of the film are sustained through the two hours, but they are fairly low-key. The foreshadowing used in the film is ridiculous and does begin to ruin some of the shock factor of the story. As I stated earlier as well, if you’ve seen the trailer then every moment of actual shock has been ruined, and this feels like a let-down. The ending of the film is also a bit of an anti-climax, and far too much of the story is left open. I admit, explanation might ruin mystery, but a little bit of reasoning for what had happened wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Overall, Velvet Buzzsaw is an entertaining piece with great performances and a fascinating premise. Unfortunately, when compared to Gilroy’s masterpiece Nightcrawler, it falls massively short for basically copying the story of Final Destination and adding a bit more class.