Art Is To Die For
A lot can be said about the quality of Netflix Original films. From How It Ends and The Open House through to Beasts Of No Nation and Roma, you never quite know what you’re going to get from the streaming giants. Step forward Velvet Buzzsaw, an artistic, aesthetically pleasing film managing to walk a fine line between thriller and horror that’s almost certainly going to divide opinion.
This one does take a while to get going too but once it does, Velvet Buzzsaw really comes into its own. The film begins with art critic Morf and introduces us to the prestigious, cut-throat world of art galleries and fashion. When employee Josephina uncovers a whole slew of paintings following the death of her neighbour, the various members of the gallery hungrily gobble up the prospect of selling these paintings at a profit.
It’s at this point where the film slides from thriller into horror territory where the film really should spend more of its time than it does. The people responsible for selling the paintings are then targeted by a supernatural entity that begins killing them off one by one. This continues through while the film constantly shifts perspectives between different characters. I won’t give too much away but the questionable decision to shift the focus to one of the supporting characters is something that only hurts, rather than helps, the film.
The majority of characters here aren’t very likable and seeing them get targeted one by one certainly breeds some fear but not enough to really care about whether these people live or die. With the exception of Morf and Josephina, you’ll likely feel pretty apathetic about these people as they find themselves alone and at the mercy of whatever’s hunting them. While both Morf and Josephina share a lot of the screen time as dual protagonists, it’s really Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance that shines here although he isn’t really the main protagonist for much of the film’s run time.
For a film about art, it would have been ironic if the aesthetic of the film wasn’t up to scratch but thankfully it really excels here and is one of the best parts of this Netflix Original. Bold, colourful clothes contrast nicely with the moody backgrounds. Point of view shots and general scene composition make for some really interesting shots too and all the while, tension rises and falls in consistent peaks toward the climactic finale.
It won’t be for everyone and the slow start may put some people off but when Velvet Buzzsaw gets into its groove, there’s a chilling horror here well worth experiencing. It’s a little messy at times and the inconsistent viewpoint combined with a slew of unlikable supporting characters does hold this one back from being a better title. If you’re patient with this one and like supernatural thrills, Velvet Buzzsaw is a pleasant surprise but far from the masterpiece it so easily could have been.