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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Review: Velvet Buzzsaw

Director: Dan Gilroy
Screenplay: Dan Gilroy
Year: 2019

Since a few months, “Velvet Buzzsaw” has been a recurring toping among horror movie fans. It stands out that this new Netflix proposal uses as a focal point a critique the stereotype of the pretentious and egocentric life of people associated with the world of modern art, similar to what happened in “Nightcrawler” with news sensationalism, movie whit which it shares director and part of the cast. With the weight of having “Nightcrawler” as a reference point to measure its performance, “Velvet Buzzsaw” is presented as a novel proposal willing to twist the horror movie world.

In “Velvet Buzzsaw” Josephine, a young lady with dreams of growing in the world of art discovers the body of an old man in the complex she lives in. Curiosity leads her to enter this man’s apartment and discovers hundreds of paintings signed by Vetril Dease. Once she starts showing the art of the dead man, all who see it are mesmerized with the macabre talent of the painter. Morf, an acclaimed art critic, starts researching the past of the painter, with the scope of writing a book about his life and work. Josephina sees the opportunity to excel in the world of art and starts selling the paintings, not knowing that all those who profit from Dease’s art are condemned to a fatal destiny.

The first thing that called my attention about this movie was the care they took with the visual details, Being a movie based on art, it is not surprising that much effort is put into the visuals, but it is still impressive how well the vibrant colors, white spaces of the gallery and dark colors were used to support romantic, suspenseful or horror situations. It also caught my attention how the suspense and intrigue are maintained throughout most of the movie. This and the excellent performances of the cast is what stands out the most in this movie.

The plot starts as a satire or critique for the people involved in the world of modern art. From here the principal character emerges, who are nothing but stereotypes inflating the negative aspects of this world. The main character is Morf Vandewalt, interpreted by Jake Gyllenhaal (“Nightcrawler”), who is a renamed art critic, which reputation and influence can make or break an artistic career. He is presented as an eccentric, sexually open and with exquisite language, although is sometimes prevents him from communicating effectively. Rhodora Haze, interpreted by Rene Russo (“Nightcrawler”), is the owner of a gallery in the city of Los Angeles, which enjoys a good reputation and constant positive reviews by Morf. Finally, Josephina, interpreted by Zawe Ashton (“Blitz”), is a seductive and manipulative woman looking for her opportunity to grow in the world of art and willing to do anything to achieve it. These stereotypes give way to the development of the plot. Here is where the problems of this movie start, as it is not clear which path it will take, moving between comedy, satire, thriller, and horror, but most of the time failing to appropriate one of these topics and make the most out of it. Its long running time gives way to unnecessary scenes and characters that have no importance on the plot.

Between love and sexual dramas, rip-offs, manipulations, thievery, and lies, the ties that bind the characters are seen and the low professional ethics are evident. All of this creates artificial characters that are not easy to relate to and makes it difficult for the viewer to grow interested in the well-being of the protagonists. Those that in some way profited from Deases’s art start having visions and fatal destinies, that, luckily, the scenes are well crafted, even when they needed more spark to create a memorable impression. Some of these scenes do not make the most out of its graphic power and do not conclude effectively the suspense that was constructed leading to them. In those that it was well used, the outcome is much more favorable to support the sense of imminent danger it tries to convey.

The advertising campaign for “Velvet Buzzsaw” was a full success in making people want to see the movie and make money. For horror movie fans it was a complete letdown, elevating the expectations about a topic seldom seen in this genre and with a star-powered cast. Those that manage to get some screen time do superb work, but others were not well utilized, having characters unimportant to the plot. In a similar way, the development of the plot is vague and underdeveloped, creating a sense of constant confusion about where the movie is going to, only rescued by an excellently developed suspense. Definitely, “Velvet Buzzsaw” remains a few steps behind “Nightcrawler”.

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