Movie Review – Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

A satire set in the contemporary art world scene of Los Angeles, where big money artists and mega-collectors pay a high price when art collides with commerce.
JulieGJune 27, 202190/10010 min
Year of Release
Horror, Thriller
1 hr 53 min
Overall Score
Rating Summary
All in all, this film is about how greed, manipulation, power and money can make horrible people out of just about anyone.
Velvet Buzzsaw

Originally posted on Julie’s other blog and rewritten for Now Showing NZ. I’ve seen a few reviews for this film talking about “satire” and using big words to say that they didn’t like this film. I’m probably in the last 10 per cent of people that really enjoyed this film, and I’m finding it hard to agree with the critics about it. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that this film is a Dan Gilroy movie, and he both wrote and directed it. And I’ve been a huge fan ever since his work on Nightcrawler, which was a pretty intense experience for me. The first time I watched it, I was blown away by its brutality and boldness. Dan Gilroy is good at delivering content you can lose yourself in. The second reason is Jake Gyllenhaal. I think it’s fair to say that I’m a big fan. He’s an actor that I think is on the verge of doing something massive – and I am still bitter he got ignored entirely for his role as Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler. So now you know the “why” behind why I enjoyed this film. We also don’t easily give away four-star ratings to many movies at all. We reserve the fours and the five stars for the films that move us, whether that be to tears or fits of rage. If a movie affects me, after the fact, it’s worthy of a rating that reflects that.

Velvet Buzzsaw - Still 1

Velvet Buzzsaw is apparently a slang term for a sexually explicit act, and while I’m still trying to figure out what connection that has to the film, the phrase itself is pretty catchy. If you’re naturally curious like I am, you’ll be drawn to something that stands out, something that sounds abnormally interesting. You’ll want to know more. The phrase also has a different connection to the film, but I won’t spoil things for you. If you want to understand why it’s called “Velvet Buzzsaw” you’ll have to watch it! The film’s focus is the filthy rich people of high society in Los Angeles connected in the art world. An art critic (Gyllenhaal), a dead artist, an art gallery owner (Russo) and her personal assistant (Ashton) make up the players telling the story. For lack of a better word, I’d definitely classify Gyllenhaal as the protagonist, but choosing an antagonist would be difficult because, at some point, everyone becomes the bad guy. The violence is relentless, and I urge caution to anyone squeamish because some of the scenes are pretty bloodthirsty. And again, this should be enough to get you out of your seat wanting more, particularly if you’re a fan of horrors or even thrillers. Some critics have pointed out that the horror element is lacking or not very “horrific”. I can’t entirely agree. The more subtle horror elements in Velvet Buzzsaw are intentional and direct and paints the picture (excuse the pun) perfectly, without overstating it. There is also the element of psychological horror where events are taking part inside someone’s mind. Is this person really seeing this, or is this their imagination playing tricks on them and us? There are many scenes like this in Velvet Buzzsaw, and that is definitely part of its appeal. Why does horror have to be overstated? You can have perfectly good horror films without having buckets of blood being flung around or a psychotic killer on the loose slashing their way to oblivion. I don’t think Velvet Buzzsaw’s purpose as a horror film is fully appreciated.


All in all, this film is about how greed, manipulation, power and money can make horrible people out of just about anyone. Even those that seem to be more or less untouched by the cruelty and malice of the social circles they inhabit. The horror element is just one film-makers way of showing how ugliness always finds a way to the surface, even if it requires a supernatural element mixed in with an artist’s pain to do so. Doesn’t that paint a curious picture?

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Freelance entertainment writer and reviewer. Visit my blog on

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