Art can be enriching, but it can also be a field that is rather exclusive, and expensive. Attracting the pursuits of the Avant-Garde, whose dedication to the hip, and nothing else can sometimes be exhausting, and ripe for parody. In 2019, Netflix combined these stereotypes into a sardonic whodunit slasher spectacular, with the delightful name of Velvet Buzzsaw.
We meet the acclaimed art critic Morf Vandewalt (I guess that’s a real name) looking for the next big thing. His partner comes across some intriguing artworks, by a recently deceased artist, named Vetril Dease with a troubled past. Morf begins obsessed with these paintings, and they’ve taken the Los Angeles clique by storm. But he, and his snobbish patrons find these new artworks to die for… literally. As the inner circle of Morf’s friends and enemies dwindles in horrific ways.
A lot of the charm (although that might not be the most operative word) comes from the delightfully accurate send-up of the hipster stereotypes, the types who have more money than they know what to do with and spend every waking moment feeling superior. Usually in these ‘slasheryfic’ “and then there were one” type movies, you want some of the characters to survive, but I don’t know if this caught me in a bad mood as I wanted everybody to perish. Which I can only imagine (and hope) is the intention of the film.
I suppose that is the price of being hip I guess, and it’s a demonstration of the talent of the cast that the likeable actors and actresses can tun into such repulsive and self-absorbed caricatures. This ensemble cast, however, brings it in spades. From Morf skillfully played by Jake Gyllenhaal, he is joined by Toni Collette (who was a shining star The United States of Tara) who plays the art curator, Gretchen. Even John Malkovich makes an appearance, fresh off the success of the other Netflix hit Bird Box. Everyone here, new and old, plays their parts so well.
Ultimately, Velvet Buzzsaw feels like the child of a very funny Tales From The Darkside episode and an above average episode of Tales Of The Crypt. Its satirical scathing arrow is on point and its horror and suspense is thoroughly entertaining if the two hours was spent in better company, I’m not sure the experience would be nearly as enjoyable, But as Velvet Buzzsaw proves Life sometimes sucks, and in some cases, so does art.
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