Welcome to Los Angeles, where the houses are luxe, the restaurants are vegan, and the art installations will kill you in your sleep. Dan Gilroy, screenwriter and director of Nightcrawler, is back to bring us Velvet Buzzsaw, a new horror movie focused on the art world of L.A. Actress Rene Russo (Gilroy’s wife) and Jake Gyllenhaal, both of whom also starred in Nightcrawler, take a turn as a gallery owner and art critic, respectively. From the looks of it, Velvet Buzzsaw will encourage you to think as much as it will raise the hair on the back of your neck.
Accompanied by the beat of ominous techno music, Velvet Buzzsaw’s newly released trailer introduces us to the film’s premise: After an elderly tenant in her apartment building dies, an up-and-coming art agent discovers that he was an artist, with a stash of unique, albeit extremely creepy, paintings collecting dust in his rooms. In awe of his talent and eager to make her big break in the art world, the agent ignores the man’s dying wish–to have the paintings destroyed. Instead, she profits off his work and sells them. Big mistake.
If the idea of canvases splashed with human blood doesn’t churn your stomach, the paintings’ lifelike qualities will. The dead man’s art is a huge hit at auctions, but Morf Vandewalt (Gyllenhaal) becomes increasingly paranoid. Are the people in the paintings moving?
Eventually, the art creates a bloodbath. A blend of psychological thriller, satire, and pure horror, the trailer threatens us with the consequences of mixing art with corporate greed. Haunting snippets include clawed hands reaching out of a painting to strangle its onlooker and artsy photos of a slain woman’s body trending on Instagram.
The inspiration for the film came from a late-night visit to an art gallery, which creeped Gilroy out and struck him as the perfect setting for a horror movie. Of the more critical aspects of the film, Gilroy told Vanity Fair, “Contemporary art really began as a movement to provoke and challenge, and it now has been completely co-opted by big money and business.” He was also intrigued by the idea of money exchanging hands over something an artist has put their soul into—in this case, literally.
Velvet Buzzsaw’s ability to combine social criticism and mind-numbing horror will come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, in which Gyllenhaal stars as a morally compromised antihero who films acts of violence and sells them to news stations seeking higher ratings. Velvet Buzzsaw marks another of Gyllenhaal’s foray into thrillers. The star-studded ensemble cast features other well-known actors, including John Malkovich, Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things), and Toni Collette (who last terrified us in Hereditary).
Velvet Buzzsaw will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2019. Netflix will release it on February 1 for wider viewing. In the meantime, watch the chilling trailer below, and prepare for your blood to run cold. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Feature still of 'Velvet Buzzsaw' via Netflix