M.L. Miller here! Welcome horror fans to my Annual countdown of the Best of the Best in Horror! Running every day through October, this list will culminate with the best horror film of the year announced on October 31st. Some of these films can be found in theaters—others have unfortunately only seen the light of day On Demand, DVD, BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films yourselves. I’ll also provide a “Worth Noting” secondary film suggestion in a separate post. These are films that stood out or just missed being on the list by a skosh—a little extra for those who can’t get enough horror.
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2018 and September 30, 2019 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. This countdown is not for the elitists or festival goers, so if the film hasn’t been released to the masses, it won’t be on the list. Also anything released this October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like DOCTOR SLEEP or ZOMBIELAND 2 just yet.
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
#19 VELVET BUZZSAW
What places this film on this countdown are the awesome performances and fun way the slasher element is introduced to this story of the horrors of the artworld, specifically involving a set of cursed paintings. It’s got some scary moments, but for the most part, you’re going to want to watch this for Jake Gyllenhaal’s perfect timing and Rene Russo’s cold banter with whomever she meets. Filled with little cameos and a scathing critique of the California art set, VELVET BUZZSAW was released on February 1, 2019! Available on Netflix!
VELVET BUZZSAW (2019)
Directed by Dan Gilroy
Written by Dan Gilroy
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, Tom Sturridge, Alan Mendell, Mig Macario, Nitya Vidyasagar, Sedale Threatt Jr., Pat Healey, Steven Williams, Marco Rodriguez, Stefan Marks, Pisay Pao, Rob Brownstein, Peter Gadiot, & Mark Steger as Hoboman!
It’s no breaking news that the art world is a pretentious world indeed. Still, I think there is something satisfying when a film so aptly captures that pretentiousness in an unflinching look at those overcome with a view that doesn’t go much further than the mirrored screen of their smart phones. VELVET BUZZSAW, with its wonderful performances and scathing view of the LA art scene, does just that. It also, eventually, becomes a light-hearted, yet gratifying horror film.
Jake Gyllenhaal leads an all-star cast as an influential art critic named Morf, one of many people who get caught up in a supernatural mystery involving a mysterious recluse named Dease, who dies and leaves word that his paintings are to be destroyed after his passing. When an eager to succeed assistant art proprietor Josephina (ANT MAN & THE WASP’s Zawe Ashton) happens upon the paintings, she ignores his final wishes and attempts to cash in on them, immediately making her the hottest art dealer in town and making Dease an overnight sensation with his entrancing paintings. Partnering with her boss (an infamous, no-nonsense dealer named Rhodora Haze, played by Rene Russo), Josephina exhibits the pieces, which begin a series of murderous events. As important people in the art world begin to perish, Josephina suspects that the paintings are the cause of it all. But do Josephina’s desires for fame and fortune surpass her consideration for the bodies left in the painting’s wake?
There’s something gratifying in seeing these pretentious snobs get what they deserve in VELVET BUZZSAW. While it is a criticism of criticism itself, as Gyllenhaal plays as pompous an art critic he can, it also is a bit of a slap on the hand to artists, the soulless business of buying and selling art, and even Hollywood itself, as this is a star-studded cast basically holding a funhouse mirror to the backstabbing, egocentric, and callous business they are entrenched in. As self-important Hollywood presents itself as, the cast and their actions make them the perfect fodder for some carnage. There is also a nice morality to this story, exemplifying the slippery slope one can find given an ounce of success and status. As many good horror stories do, VELVET BUZZSAW is a precautionary tale for those in the art world.
Gyllenhaal proves he is one of the best actors around these days. His comic timing is impeccable, and he offers up a refreshing and nuanced character of a man who doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life as well as what he wants out of it. Everyone is sort of lost in this minutia here with Ashton’s Josephina being tempted by fame and fortune, Russo’s Rhodora becoming more and more jaded with the art she deals with, and John Malkovich losing the “thing” that made him become an artist in the first place. Filmmaker Dan Gilroy offers up time for each of these actors to have a moment to shine, reflect, and transform.
With my background in art, psychology, and education (not to mention my experience in criticism), VELVET BUZZSAW really struck home for me. I’ve been to the hollow art openings where people are more interested in how they look looking at the art pieces rather than the passion put forth to make them. VELVET BUZZSAW takes its time to get to the horror, but once it does, the comeuppances arrive in vivid and imaginative ways. While some might say, let’s get to the horror already, VELVET BUZZSAW bides its time and offers up some fantastic moments of character from its talented cast as an appetizer, making the whole film quite filling by the poignant, powerful, and undeniably Malcovichian end.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#19 – VELVET BUZZSAW
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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