A short pan of “Velvet Buzzsaw” (2019)

Sorry, but for me “Velvet Buzzsaw” (2019) was a bust.  I’d rate it a 3 out of 10 for being an interesting and ambitious Netflix horror film that nevertheless failed to hold my interest.

My interest was piqued along with everyone else when I first saw the trailer for this earlier this year.  It looked amazing.  It was a high-concept supernatural horror film with great visual effects and a cast that included Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and John Malkovich.  (The cast also includes Toni Collette, who I’ve recently come to understand is a damned good actress.)  It looked funny too.

But “Velvet Buzzaw” fatally suffers from the characters that it depicts.  All of the above actors portray profoundly irritating characters, and not even their formidable talents make these characters any fun to watch.  The movie takes place in the Miami Beach art world, and the major characters are artists, critics, or gallery owners and employees.  (The plot device here is a collection of haunted paintings that kill their owners.)  With the exception of Malkovich’s artist (“Piers”), these characters are so cloying, trite and pretentious that seeing them on screen is nearly nerve rattling.  You don’t care much that they’re imperiled.  You just want to see them die, so that the movie will be over.

This would have been a far better movie if screenwriter Dan Gilroy chose to depict its events mostly from Piers’ point of view.  I suppose that would have been difficult; he isn’t central to the plot.  But it would have been worth it.

There are some things to like.  Malkovich and Russo re always fun to watch, a lot of the special effects are quite good, and the final demise in the film is actually very well rendered.  (Given the mediocrity of the movie as a whole, I was surprised at how clever and unsettling this was.)  A college buddy of mine with excellent taste in horror actually liked “Velvet Buzzsaw” quite a bit.  So maybe this is just a matter of taste.

I can’t recommend this, though.

 

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