Posts Tagged ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’

Pet Semetary is considered one of His Royal Scariness Stephen King’s most terrifying novels, and one King has said he’d take back if he could due to the subject matter of child death in the book. Both it and its 1989 movie adaptation are classics, so people were both intrigued and a little wary when it was announced that the movie would be getting a remake. Then we got trailers that intrigued us and then made our heads scratch. I don’t need to state spoilers here that the little girl dies instead of the little boy this time, right? Well, too bad. But King was okay with the change, so we had to wait and wonder what the movie would be like when it came out.

Based on King’s novel, Pet Semetary revolves around the Creed family, who move into a house in the Maine countryside when father Louis Creed gets a job at a university clinic. He soon finds out that there’s a cemetery for animals on his property, and beyond it another burial ground that has to bring back anything buried in it, including his daughter’s cat. However, sometimes they come back very wrong. When the Creeds are affected by a terrible tragedy, Louis uses the burial ground to reverse the tragedy. But it only leads to an even bigger, more terrifying disaster.

Um…I wasn’t scared.

There’s plenty to like about this movie. It looks the part of a modern Stephen King movie, and they manage to bring the spirit of the novel, especially the feeling of a domino effect at work with the characters, into it. And for once, Jason Clarke, who plays Louis Creed, actually connects with me as an actor. Normally I don’t like him when I see him in something, but this time I really felt it. Every bit of grief, relief, or horror, resonated with my core. And most of the other principal cast members are great in their roles. Jete Laurence (who’s name, by the way, is a dance move in ballet, which I find fitting given her character’s love of ballet in the film) makes a sympathetic protagonist in particular, and later makes a welcome addition to the pantheon of evil kids out to get us.

However, there’s much about this film that left me feeling less than impressed. For one thing, many of the scares were jump scares. And as I’ve become fond of saying lately, jump scares are the cheapest form of terror in horror films. Once they’re done, the fear seeps out of you and you’re okay again. Even after one really effective jump scare, I was okay a minute later.

And then there’s the change from the original story: Ellie Creed, the elder Creed child, dies instead of toddler Gage, and ends up being the one resurrected. Hey, I’m cool with it. If there are no surprises, why bother remaking a film? But that’s the only real change that’s worthy of talking about. Afterwards, the film adheres rather closely to the novel, and even where it doesn’t, it’s pretty predictable. I would’ve preferred it if after this change, they decided to make more changes to the story and send it in different directions. I mean, if you’re going to have an older child, rather than a toddler, the source of terror, why not take advantage of that (especially since older children are much better at planning and being devious)? Go where we won’t expect it and give us the terror of not knowing what will happen next!

That look, like a raised eyebrow. It says my whole opinion of the film and the decisions made with it in one look.

I mean, I had to rewrite two-thirds of my novel to make it publishable, and I went in some different directions to make it work. The result was a much better and far more unpredictable thrill ride. So I know what I’m talking about.*

Finally, I felt Jon Lithgow as neighbor Jud Krendall was underused. The character in this film only existed for exposition. In the original novel and the 1989 film, his friendship with Louis feels real. Here, it’s forced in so the character can explain stuff (sans flashbacks too, by the way. I liked the use of those in the original film, why couldn’t they be in this film?). Between this film and Velvet Buzzsaw, I feel sorry for the guy. He’s been in bad roles in two films this year, and neither of them make great horror films.

Oh, one more thing: you can tell that cat is a puppet at certain points! It’s painfully obvious! Makes me miss Goose the Cat, who I couldn’t tell was a puppet at several points in Captain Marvel.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving 2019’s Pet Semetary a 2 out of 5. Perhaps it’s trying to keep the film under two hours and not alienate Stephen King purists, but in all honesty, I would’ve preferred another twenty minutes or more and some new directions for the story. As it is, the film is going to serve a reminder that not all the adaptations in the current Stephen King renaissance will be gems.

*Speaking of which, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming novel Rose. The story, a fantasy-horror novel, follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is that you consider posting a review on or after the novel’s release date. If you or somebody you know is interested, just send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

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This new film got some buzz after its trailer was released, with lots of people saying it could be scary as all get-out. That, and there aren’t many movies revolving around haunted artwork and/or the art world, so we thought it could be breaking some new ground. So I tuned in this evening. And I’m glad I had wine in the fridge, after what I just saw.

Velvet Buzzsaw follows tough art critic Mort Vandewalt, art agent Josephina, and her boss Rhodora Haze, who are considered the creme de la creme of the art elite circles or working on making that happen. One day, Josephina discovers her elderly neighbor has died, and then discovers he’s an artist of amazing talent, who also wanted all his artwork destroyed after his death. Jospehina decides to take the artwork and sell it alongside Rhodora, making them all very rich. However, several suspicious accidents and deaths occur, all occurring around the dead man’s art. Soon Mort, who has become obsessed with the dead man and his work, discovers some dark secrets around it. Secrets that are deadly in their power.

I’ve heard it said that contemporary art is about the idea behind the piece and its execution, rather than what the work portrays. If so, I think the idea here was a searing indictment of the elite art world in the form of a horror movie, but ooh, was the execution horribly botched.

Velvet Buzzsaw is only really a horror movie a third of the time. The other two-thirds, it seems to be either a slow-burn thriller about the dark side of the art world, or the film equivalent of those literary stories where characters go on personal journeys through their hundrum lives to find themselves/meaning in their lives/happiness. When it’s the third type, it’s actually pretty decent. If it were that kind of film, then we might get something Oscar-worthy. But then the film switches to slow-burn thriller, which is just kind of sub-par, all talk about cut-rate deals and how to screw everybody over (in more senses than one). And when it switches to horror, the rest of the movie has been so diluted that there’s no atmosphere or scares that the audience can be picked up.

I also found John Malkovich’s role in this film to be a total waste. He’s this tortured artist who kind of exits the film halfway through, and then we only see him in the credits, and it’s like…what? What was the point of this character? Along with Natalia Dyer’s Coco, which would’ve been a great perspective to see these events play out from if the character had been given more screen time, I’m just peeved.

If there was something about this film I liked, it was the cast. Jake Gyllenhaal, Zawe Ashton and Rene Russo do excellent jobs as the three main characters, Daveed Diggs of Hamilton fame has a role as an up-and-coming artist, which was cool. And there are some cool art pieces in the film, as well as some great bits of cinematography.

But taken all together, Velvet Buzzsaw is a 2 out of 5 at best. It’s inconsistent in tone, wastes some of its talent, and ultimately creates a film that’s stylistically memorable but otherwise forgettable. If the film had maybe found a tone to focus on and, if that chosen tone had been horror or horror-thriller, given the character of Coco more screen time instead of just using her as a sort of tragic comic relief, and had devoted time to building an atmosphere, then we might’ve had something here. But since the filmmakers didn’t go that route, it’s just a damn shame.