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Netflix drops first trailer for arty horror-thriller Velvet Buzzsaw

Netflix is offering up a new horror-thriller sure to generate some Buzz.

Fresh off the massive success of the terrifying Bird Box, the streamer is readying to drop Velvet Buzzsaw, the first trailer for which was released to its U.K. and Ireland YouTube channel this morning. It looks… how do we put this? Absolutely freakin' nuts.

A little background: the film is the third directorial effort from veteran screenwriter Dan Gilroy, who blew plenty of minds with his debut feature Nightcrawler back in 2014. His 2017 followup, Roman J. Israel, Esq. (which is actually a treatment of the life of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice), was widely seen as a letdown, which Gilroy made up for by penning the script for the excellent Kong: Skull Island, released that same year. Velvet Buzzsaw will not only reunite him with Nightcrawler star Jake Gyllenhaal, but appears to be a return to the creepy, nerve-jangling aesthetic that made that film a surprise hit.

Gyllenhaal portrays a Los Angeles art critic by the unlikely name of Morf Vanderwalt, whose world is turned upside-down when he comes into contact with the work of a mysterious and deceased artist, and in keeping with the flick's subject matter, the trailer leans toward the impressionistic. It opens with his character inspecting an unseen artwork, and crazily, you'd be able to guess his profession before he even utters a word. Donning his glasses, he shakes his head in frustration before saying, "Critique is so limiting and emotionally draining." Right off the bat, his delivery and mannerisms peg him as perfect for this role, but we're just getting started.

We see him at an art show, offering up dismissive critiques of various works ("No originality… no courage,") before encountering a creepy work titled "Hobo Man," which consists of a live model decked out in some of the weirdest garb you have ever seen. "I can't save you," the man croaks in an almost alien-sounding voice. This isn't the last we'll see of him.

We then see Vanderwalt in his office in the company of a young woman who has an… interesting artwork for his inspection. A series of quick cuts and dialogue reveal that she is the downstairs neighbor of the artist, who recently died, leaving behind all of his work. As he had no friends or family, the woman took custody of his portfolio. But a couple of things aren't quite right here: there's no record of the artist anywhere, and it turns out that portions of his works were painted in actual blood. Then, we see the same young woman canoodling with a male friend as one of those freaky paintings hangs on the wall. "You ever notice anything about this painting?" the man asks. "If you look at it long enough… it moves." In a brilliant jump scare moment, it does just that.

Vanderwalt is seen reacting in horror to… something, and we're then made privy to the fact that the artist "spent decades in a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane." In voiceover, Vanderwalt exclaims, "There is some sort of power… some spirit… connected to his art," as a series of bizarre events flash before our eyes, culminating in a sequence with a character standing in front of a mirror that may make you not want to brush your teeth for awhile. We see a woman apparently being straight-up murdered by a shiny, spherical art installation when she sticks her arm into one of its many holes (like that one scene in Flash Gordon… you know the one). And then, something truly strange: as Vanderwalt attempts to hide all of the nefarious artwork away in a storage unit, who should reappear but that creepy-ass Hobo Man, repeating his refrain of "I can't save you." 

The trailer concludes with the woman who started all the trouble in the first place on the phone with Vanderwalt, telling him, "We're trending on Instagram… it's a major hit." The critic doesn't look very psyched about this prospect.

This film just looks completely bananas, and it also sports an absolutely stellar cast. Rene Russo, who also starred in Nightcrawler, reunites with Gyllenhaal; also on board are Toni Collette (Hereditary), Natalia Dyer (Stranger Things), Billy Magnussen (Maniac), rapper/actor Daveed Diggs (Black-ish), and the great John Malkovich, recently seen in — hey, what a coincidence — Bird Box.

The flick's brief and vague official synopsis ("a thriller 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") didn't exactly have us pumped, but this trailer changed all that; we are now super-pumped, and we don't have too long to wait. The flick will screen in just a couple weeks at Sundance before seeing its release on Netflix (and in select theaters) on February 1.