Netflix: Humans are the true evil of Velvet Buzzsaw (Spoilers)


The following article contains spoilers for Velvet Buzzsaw. It’s a lot of fun, so check it out on Netflix and come back later!

Velvet Buzzsaw is a unique thriller the likes of which we may never see again. Netflix’s latest original endeavor — which premiered to a mostly positive reception at Sundance only a few days ago — may center around art, but writer/director Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler) remains keenly focused on the awfulness that the art brings out in people.

Whether it’s directed toward a specific art form, entertainment, love, religion or something else entirely, humans are incapable of admiration without toxicity, and Gilroy’s newest project is an often hilarious and scathing look into that dark side of human nature. It’s a film that highlights the bitterness of humanity and our obsessions with money, power and popularity — and thankfully, it’s also a film that makes us pay.

There’s a powerful supernatural force on display throughout Velvet Buzzsaw that causes paintings from a deceased artist to come to life and kill everyone whose admiration is owned by their greed, but it’s easy to feel that humans are the true evil of this story.

Many of the core characters — Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal), Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo), Josephina (Zawe Ashton), Gretchen (Toni Collette) and Jon Dondon (Tom Sturridge) among others — allow their views to be tainted by personal gain. If it means screwing over artists and people they consider to be friends, so be it. If they stand to profit, all morality ceases to exist.

This attitude makes each death especially funny, because we quite literally go from seeing these characters being terrible to each other in one scene, to them being emotional over the deaths of their comrades in the next. Just moments before Gretchen has her arm cut off by an interactive sphere that’s on display, Gyllenhaal’s Morf is screaming about how much he detests her, yet he still grieves dramatically when he hears of her passing. Everyone is a sociopath with an ulterior motive, and it’s as hilarious as it is sickening.

Velvet Buzzsaw–Courtesy of Netflix

It’s a bleak, exaggerated satire, but Dan Gilroy is stroking the canvas with flourishes of honesty. We are a greedy people, and eventually, we’re going to reap the consequences of our wickedness. Even as Morf begins to unravel the central mystery and reshape his behavior towards those around him, it proves to be too late. The past always catches up to us.

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For the sake of pure entertainment, Gilroy wisely wrings laughs out of the karma he frequently dishes out in the second half of the film. There are moments of suspense that are effectively chilling, but the in-your-face bitterness of characters brings to mind the dark humor of films like Mary Harron’s American Psycho, and a few clever gags are worthy of audible chuckling (the best of which involves Natalia Dyer’s Coco bouncing around from employer to employer as everyone she works for keeps dying).

Velvet Buzzsaw, intentionally or not, carries itself similarly to a painting in an art gallery. There’s no doubt that many viewers will observe Gilroy’s film and form their own opinions about exactly what the filmmaker is trying to say. It arouses thought and discussion. It may not be the straight-up horror nightmare you’re expecting, and there’s no doubt that the sporadic tonal balancing act will be a turn-off for some, but as a pitch-black comedy about greed, criticism, actions and consequences, it’s a euphoric delight.

Velvet Buzzsaw is now streaming on Netflix!

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