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This one popped up on Netflix and is currently playing in select theaters. The director is Dan Gilroy, who made Nightcrawler. Having thoroughly enjoyed Nightcrawler, I was eagerly awaiting this one. And it was going to be a horror film! Right up my alley!
***WARNING! MILD SPOILERS!***
Man, what a crushing disappointment.
The movie has all the polish and craftsmanship to be expected of Dan Gilroy as well as an amazing star-studded cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Toni Collette, and John Malkovich, all of which is squandered over an exhaustive run-time for such a thin concept. Don't get me wrong--the movie is not long (113 minutes) but it certainly feels like it is. The concept is dated and the narrative lacks any sense of pace, making the whole thing feel like a very glamorous, very shiny slog that will have you checking your watch.
The whole thing is basically a satirical skewering of the modern art scene, which in itself is OK. But this also means that we have to deal with wholly and actively unlikable characters the whole way through (except for John Malkovich's and Natalia Dyer's characters).
The plot involves a bunch of art scene socialites as they discover the paintings of a dead artist with a dark past, looking to exploit them for profit. But oh no! They're cursed! The paintings themselves are properly disturbing, but that's the end of the movie's effectiveness. They're not even properly used throughout. Instead, the curse makes any and all art in the environment attack anybody who seeks to profit from the cursed paintings. Fun concept, right? Too bad it devolves into typical slasher fare pretty early on before it develops in any interesting manner (i.e. the moment somebody's alone anywhere, you know they're dead).
There's no real build-up or suspense to any of the attempted scares either (although a couple of these scenes are admittedly pretty creative). Oftentimes they just come across as contrived and poorly paced. There's one scene early on involving monkeys that made me laugh out loud. And yes, there's a lot of humor in the film, but that scene was played very, very straight.
The real meat of the story would've been in the backstory of the disturbed artist who made the paintings, but the movie barely delves into him or even mentions him, choosing instead to be a hopelessly dated satire about jackass-y rich people and pop art. The fact that the cast is full of stars also hinders the movie rather than help it, as the writer attempts to give them all something meaty and substantial to work with regardless of the importance of their role--affairs, job hunts, internship hunts, rival dealers, rival agents, tortured pasts, etc... it's not just backstory either; we actively follow these unlikable a-holes through their lives in granular detail, and time is devoted to these subplots. Sounds like a great idea to try and develop these people, right? But in practice, it just makes me wonder why those elements are there for half of the cast. When someone is offed early (say, before the halfway mark) their subplots completely and utterly die with them, with no semblance of individual resolution, callback, or anything resembling a closure of their arc for the benefit of the overall movie.
The whole thing is little more than your average, self-aware, post-Scream, forgettable slasher, but this time it's hidden under a mask of expert-grade cinematography as it tries and fails to be something greater than what it is.
None of the movie's issues are technical. It looks great, sounds great, and has an awesome cast with good performances all the way through, but in the end, it's just a horror film devoid of any suspense, atmosphere or scares.
Hell, even the title's tacked-on (won't spoil it in case you choose to watch the movie, but I'm not sure why you would).
Would definitely like to see what others thought of it. I was really hoping to like this one.
I love these kinds of stories about great, mysterious and often depraved artists : Apartment 16, Layers of Fear, Cordova etc but it never went anywhere.
I enjoyed the first thirty minutes. The art world was presented very convincingly by a group of stellar actors but after that it fizzled out completely. There was no mystery, they were not trying to accomplish anything, and the whole thing was just watching people die one by one. I didn't hate it, but it felt very redundant.
I too was looking forward to this, based on the "buzz" it was getting.
The first night I tried, I didn't make it through, which is never a good sign. I decided to start it over again the next time I had some time and I drifted off a few times, but when it was all said and done, I disliked it intensely.
Julio gave a great review here. The characters are all almost impossible to root for. And, for me, I didn't think any of the performances were very good, as everyone was written so over the top, and even their "look" was ridiculous, with all the obvious wigs.
I've read alot of feedback on this and it seems to me that because it's written and directed by Dan Gilroy and has an all star cast, it must be really good, and deep, and so intelligent.
It's not, though. It's a poor attempt at horror and it's a poor attempt at humor, and it just goes to show how good all those oh so simple horror flicks actually are.
To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
Y'know, to me it's not even that the characters are unlikable per se, but rather that I had no reason to even empathize with their situations because their roles in the context of the film feel completely random.
I thought Louis Bloom was a tremendous protagonist in Nightcrawler. Did I like him? No! He was a criminal and a total sociopath, but I also could not wait to see how his story developed and concluded right from the moment he first appeared in that movie. There's no character in Velvet Buzzsaw that even comes close to that level of intrigue.
Anyway, I'm glad I'm not alone in my opinion. The film does seem to have a mixed-to-positive reception online, but seem to be giving it more merit than it deserves simply because it's made by Dan Gilroym like Dreamscale states.