Toward the beginning of Velvet Buzzsaw, my low expectations for the film — based on a combination of its Netflix trailer and my brief exposure to some reviews — appeared to be pleasantly inaccurate.
I’d become somewhat convinced that I may actually find a degree of entertainment and value in the experience, as suggested by the well-designed opening visuals, introduction of characters, and general storyline.
Unfortunately, as I continued to watch the film, I realized that my initial criticisms of the content in the trailer were neither harsh nor unjustified.
The following review contains spoilers.
Review of Velvet Buzzsaw
One of the most important aspects of a film, regardless of its particular genre, is substance — development of characters and plot, in this context — and Velvet Buzzsaw noticeably lacks it.
Aside from protagonist Morf (Jake Gyllenhaal)’s acknowledgment that his sexual orientation may not be as definitive as he’d previously believed, there’s essentially no depth to the featured characters of the film.
Nearly all of them, except for Coco (Natalia Dyer) — a new resident of Los Angeles who’s desperately attempting to avoid returning to her former home in Michigan and repeatedly encountering the bodies of her would-be employers — are excessively narcissistic by nature, leaving the audience to be fairly indifferent to their survival.
As a result, once the supernatural elements are introduced (related to another issue that I’ve yet to address), a pattern can be identified in which viewers apathetically wait for the paintings of Ventril Dease to kill off one of the cast members before moving on to the next.
But aside from the impending deaths of those who exploited the recently deceased painter’s works for monetary gain and the relatively vague, cliché elements of the man’s background — abusive father, deadly house fire, and mental institution experiments — there’s minimal plot development in the film.
With that being said, the combined presence of shallow, one-dimensional characters and a plot that doesn’t really move beyond the idea of immoral, selfish behavior resulting in consequences leaves Velvet Buzzsaw largely dependent on its portrayal and incorporation of the supernatural.
Nevertheless, the film is unsuccessful in creating more than some occasionally creepy moments — such as those involving Hoboman (Mark Steger), a robot who seemingly becomes possessed by an unknown entity — and fails to keep the viewer satisfied.
Although I sometimes take issue with horror films associated with gratuitous violence, I found that Velvet Buzzsaw would have benefited from it.
Every death scene in the film came across as unnecessarily abrupt and tame, especially considering its R-rated label.
During the last of the [six] character deaths, for example, Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo), the woman whose tattoo is directly referenced by the film’s title — is presumably killed by the artwork on her skin, but the viewer is only present in the scene for a few moments after the supernatural force arrives.
More violent, extended death scenes wouldn’t have compensated for character and plot issues — likely a detrimental byproduct of the film’s unintentionally misleading use of satire — however, they could have reduced the dissatisfaction of viewers who noticed the absence of horror during moments when it was most appropriate.
Pumpkin Rating and Conclusion:
2 / 5 Pumpkins
Velvet Buzzsaw opens with a style and premise that create the illusion of a promising film but inevitably destroys itself due to a lack of genuine substance or horror.
* * *
Watch the Film: Netflix
Image Reference: IMDb