WARNING: Spoilers for Velvet Buzzsaw ahead.
Netflix's Velvet Buzzsaw is full of grisly deaths and ends on a couple of bloody notes that are left open to interpretation. Written and directed by Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), the film is both a satirical skewering of the LA contemporary art world and a straight-up horror film; it's a strange mix where an eclectic cast of art snobs are suddenly victimized by a murderous supernatural spirit.
In Velvet Buzzsaw, Josephina (Zawe Ashton), a greedy art gallery assistant finds thousands of paintings left behind by her dead neighbor, an artist named Ventril Dease. She and Rhodora Haze, the owner of the Haze Art Gallery, seek to make millions from this find while Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal), LA's most powerful art critic, plans to write a book about the dead artist. However, a supernatural force that is seemingly fueled by the evil spirit of Ventril Dease sets off to kill everyone associated with stealing his art and trying to profit from it after his death. First, Dease kills Bryson (Billy Magnussen), Rhodora's handyman who was trying to make off with crates of his art, and the spirit also hangs Jon Dondon (Tom Sturridge) for trying to get an expose about Dease published. Gretchen (Toni Collette) was also killed when she sold some of Dease's paintings in exchange for rights to display a sculpture called Sphere; Gretchen's arm was sliced off when she inserted it in Sphere and she bled to death.
Dease's final targets in Velvet Buzzsaw were Morf, who was uncovering the truth about Dease's life, Rhodora, who was trying to artificially increase demand of Dease's work, and Josephina, the one who stole Dease's paintings in the first place so she could become a partner in Haze Gallery.
- This Page: Velvet Buzzsaw's Ending & Meaning
- Page 2: What Velvet Buzzsaw's Final Scene and Closing Credits Mean
What Actually Happened At The End of Velvet Buzzsaw?
In the finale of Velvet Buzzsaw, Dease attempted to kill the three main characters, Morf, Josephina, and Rhodora simultaneously. Morf was at his storage facility locking away the Dease paintings he owned when he was confronted by the Hoboman, the robotic art exhibit he saw at Miami Art Basel at the start of the film. Morf gave a scathing review of Hoboman, which killed that exhibition's chances at profitability. But the robot, possessed by Dease's malevolent spirit, materialized in LA and attacked Morf. Unable to escape and trapped by a chain link, the Hoboman snaps Morf's neck. Coco, who Morf had just hired as his part-time assistant, soon found his body just as she found the other bodies Dease killed, Jon and Gretchen.
Meanwhile, Josephina was outside a dive bar waiting for a tow truck and she called Rhodora to let her know that their client (and Josephina's lover) Damrish (Daveed Diggs) was no longer going to be represented by their Haze Gallery. Josephina was lured into an art gallery that magically appeared behind her and, while she waited on the phone, the paint from all of the artwork slithered onto her skin and completely covered her. Josephina then magically became part of the mural of the building she had entered.
Through all this, Dease was unable to kill Rhodora; she was chasing her cat in her backyard and narrowly avoided a sculpture falling on top of her. However, even though Rhodora, who refused to leave her hillside home when the killings began, had movers take the 47 pieces of Dease's work she owned away, the painter still exacted his final revenge - the Velvet Buzzsaw tattoo on the back of Rhodora's neck came alive and killed her. Rhodora was the last of this group of greedy people who tried to profit off the dead artist's work so the murderous spirit seems satisfied - for now.
What Was Going On With Ventril Dease And His Paintings In Velvet Buzzsaw?
Velvet Buzzsaw's ending isn't entirely clear about what the supernatural power of Dease's paintings is exactly, but the answers to how his spirit came to possess his art lie in what happened to Dease in his life. As a boy, Dease watched his mother and sister die in a fire and he was then abused by his father. After leaving an orphanage at 18 and the serving two years in the military, Dease suffered a breakdown and murdered his father. Dease was incarcerated in an insane asylum where he was experimented on and "treated like a guinea pig" with unknown drugs. When Dease was finally released, he became a janitor and stayed one for 47 years, living alone off the grid and painting thousands of artworks.
The key is the revelation that Dease mixed his own blood with the red and black paint he used. Upon his death, his own spirit was infused with all of his work. This is why Damrish and Morf both experienced the images in the paintings seemingly being able to move. However, Velvet Buzzsaw's exact rules of the supernatural killer are fuzzy and somehow, Dease can also control other art that isn't his like Sphere, Hoboman, and the painting of monkeys fixing a truck engine that killed Bryson. However, Dease's art was nearby in each instance so perhaps it's simply proximity that allowed Dease to control others' art.
Ultimately, there's some commentary here as well regarding the crash commercialism of art versus an outsider artist like Dease who hoarded all of his work and still refuses to see it sold beyond the grave, despite his art being worth untold millions.
What Does The Velvet Buzzsaw Title And Tattoo Mean?
Velvet Buzzsaw takes its title from the punk rock band that Rhodora was once part of in her wilder, younger days. Today, Rhodora is a snobby and cold gallery owner who no longer makes art and instead profits off the work of other artists desperate for money, fame, and global exposure on the art scene - an apt summary of what the movie is rallying against.
Of course, the title becomes more narratively important later on. Since Dease failed earlier to kill Rhodora with art she had purchased, the evil spirit instead murdered her using Velvet Buzzsaw tattooed on the back of her neck. In essence, Rhodora was killed by the symbol of the last time she herself was an artist - a fittingly cruel and bloody demise.