“Velvet Buzzsaw”: an artsy take on the horror genre

Warning: Spoilers for the movie “Velvet Buzzsaw,” out now on Netflix.

I am not at all a horror movie person in any way, shape or form. I don’t like being scared, and I don’t like being stressed. However, I was able to survive this experience, unlike most of the characters in the movie.

The first thing I have to say about this movie is that Jake Gyllenhaal was superb. I think he might be one of the best actors in the industry right now. Gyllenhaal’s ability to fully embody a role and make it completely unique from any other role he has taken is engrossing to watch, and the fact that he so regularly puts out amazing work is very impressive.

In this story, art is personified as a character with motivation and feeling. The premise of the film is that people use a dead man’s paintings to gain a massive profit, even though the man explicitly said to destroy his work when he died. The characters in the movie go against his wishes and are punished for it.

I think this movie raises interesting questions. Is it ever acceptable to separate art from an artist’s wishes? Is art something that should be commodified and turned for profit? What power should a critic hold in an artistic field where interpretation is a key factor in the experience?

While “Velvet Buzzsaw” raises these questions, it doesn’t force you to care about the answer. This movie is enjoyable on the surface level and doesn’t require any critical thinking to enjoy it. It’s one of those “you can watch this while you’re on Facebook” kind of movies, if you choose to do so.

The aesthetic of “Velvet Buzzsaw” was unlike any horror movie in recent memory. Normally, horror movies are dark and gritty (think “The X-Files”), but this movie was full of vibrant colors and beautiful scenery. Watching it was a pleasure for my eyes in that sense. I don’t want to have to turn my screen brightness all the way up and squint just to see what’s going on.

One thing I didn’t enjoy about this film was how long the buildup was to each of the deaths. Based on the premise, you know people are going to die. It wasn’t a matter of if– it was a matter of when. However, the pacing of the deaths felt very slow, especially for the first two deaths. It took eons for the first guy’s death scene to be over. By the time he died, I was so desensitized that I didn’t even care.

I think as a whole this film had an issue with pacing. The beginning was very slow and then closer to the end of the movie everything felt rushed. I’m not sure if that was meant to be a way to portray Morf’s (Gyllenhaal) descent into madness and hysteria, but I’m thinking that wasn’t the case.

I also think the movie had a problem with developing its characters. I would have loved to have gotten more information about the woman who was in charge of the museum, whose name I can’t even remember after watching the movie. She had a tattoo that literally said “Velvet Buzzsaw,” and its significance was never really explained.

Overall, watching this film was an experience slightly better than mediocre. I don’t know if I’ll rewatch this movie, but after I’d finished I didn’t regret the time I’d spent watching it.

Score: 3/5