Review: Velvet Buzzsaw

Velvet Buzzsaw is a weird film.

I’ll say that now, right off the bat. It’s weird. However, I would have liked it to be just a little weirder. So let’s talk about it.

Why now?

Velvet Buzzsaw was released on February 1 on Netflix.

In a nutshell

The art circle of Miami Beach is turned on its head when a vast collection of pieces are discovered after a reclusive master artist called Vetril Dease dies and his works are claimed by an ambitious young woman seeking to climb the social and professional ladder. It isn’t long before those who purchase Dease’s works begin to experience disturbing events, some of which prove to be fatal.

Who’s it for?

Velvet Buzzsaw is rated 15 for strong bloody violence, language, and sex, and it certainly features plenty of that. However, while it’s gory in parts and the language is occasionally pretty bad, it’s tame enough compared to other movies in the supernatural horror genre. It’s not for kids, though.

Who’s in it?

There’s a strong cast in this one. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Mort Vandewalt, an art critic researching Vetril Dease after his works are discovered. He’s romantically involved with Josephina (Zawe Ashton), the lady who discovers Dease’s work; she’s employed by Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo), owner of the art gallery where much of the film’s central plot points take place. The film also features Toni Collett, John Malkovich and a host of others you’ll definitely recognise. Like I said, strong cast.

The good stuff

Rene Russo and Jake Gyllenhaal in Velvet Buzzsaw

Jake Gyllenhaal, for a start, is great. He plays the role of camp, snooty art critic to perfection, managing to be annoyingly arrogant while remaining relatable enough throughout. His performance largely carries the film at times. The setting is interesting, and I was intrigued with the premise from the start. The film is genuinely scary at times, too, and it’s directed fairly well.

The not so good stuff

However, like I said at the start of this review, it’s a weird film. I don’t think the writers 100% knew what they wanted it to be. It starts as some sort of satirical drama and ends as a full-on supernatural horror without being either consistently throughout its runtime. It ends up as a kind of twist on Final Destination, with characters bumped off by some unseen vengeful force in a variety of ways. It felt to me like the makers of Velvet Buzzsaw got off to a solid start and then ran out of ideas about halfway through.

Like so many Netflix films, this one could have been so much more than it ended up as. Had the writers pushed the premise just a bit more, or sent it in another direction (it would have worked as a pure comedy – if it was supposed to be a pure comedy, I didn’t get it), this may have been a five-star review.

The bottom line

I was ultimately left disappointed with Velvet Buzzsaw. It has its moments and it’s probably worth a watch if you’ve nothing better to do, but in the end, its style outweighs any real substance. What starts off strong and engaging peters out into something predictable that leaves you wondering if you should have watched something else instead.

Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Posted by
David McIlroy

Freelance writer/contributor based in Northern Ireland. Degrees in English, Film and Youth Work. Married to the beautiful Christine. My main things: God, family, movies, reading, and Liverpool FC.