Venom
Director: Jim Gillespie

Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Meagan Good
Review by Brian M. Sammons

Some movies come and go like the proverbial fart in a windstorm. This is one of those films. I sort of remember something about it when it first came out, but that’s about all: something. This mid-2000s fright flick garnered neither raves nor scorn. You never hear genre fans ever say “hey remember that movie, Venom?” either to praise or slam it. It was almost as if the film never was. And here’s the kicker; even I, your humble and incredibly well informed reviewer, never saw it, and I’ve seen a lot of horror movies, both good and bad. Well, mostly bad.

But this movie?

Nope, never caught it … until now.

Despite its title, Venom has nothing to do with Spider-Man’s arch villain of the same name, although I’d bet that’s what most kids will think of when hearing it. No, it’s a good old fashioned voodoo tale. Ok, it’s a hip, modern (to 2005 standards, anyway), and teen friendly voodoo tale, but surprisingly a lot of the voodoo hoodoo they toss around in this film is pretty well researched. See, I’ve always been fascinated by voodoo. I even know that the preferred term for this complex, maligned by Hollywood religion is ‘vodou’ or ‘vodrun.’ Don’t know why I’m so attracted to the gris-gris and the Loa, I don’t believe in it and being from the northern United States I’ve never been exposed to it, but something about it always trips my cool trigger. So yay, this flick had that going for it, but did it have anything else?

Surprisingly, yes. In addition to the voodoo theme the story had a few fresh takes on the supernatural slasher genre, which ultimately this movie is. The main “baddie” of the piece is a tow truck driver named Ray and he really isn’t all that bad. Sure he’s a big, dirty, creepy looking cat with a wicked scar on his face, but he’s actually kind of nice towards the leading lady of the movie. Sadly, he doesn’t remain that way for long. You see, one dark and stormy night (ok, that ‘take’ is not at all fresh, I admit) a witchy voodoo woman digs up a suitcase full of magic snakes out of the swamp. A car accident on an old bridge not only kills the magic woman before she could properly take care of the evil serpents, but gets the helpful and misunderstood Ray into her car just as it plunges into the swamp. In the ensuing chaos the snakes come out the suitcase and proceed to bite the living hell out of Ray, killing him.

The next day Ray’s waterlogged corpse leaves the morgue and starts off on a killing spree.

Enter the plucky heroine and her friends who soon cross the path of the rapidly rotting corpse filled to the brim with evil that just wants to kill folks and worship the dark voodoo spirits. So why is the once peaceful Ray now a full-on death machine? Well the now dead voodoo woman used to help people like murderers, rapists, and other charmers like that by having snakes suck the evil out of them when they died, so they could get into heaven, I suppose. How that works, who knows, since snakes usually pump bad stuff into people, like the titular venom, and not suck bad stuff out of them, but that’s magic for you I guess. Anyway, when the now immortal snakes bit poor Ray they pumped him full of all the evil they had sucked out of who knows how many people. That gives you one super evil, and surprisingly smart zombie who can drive cars, throw crowbars, sandblast of girl’s faces (no, really) and figure out puzzles.

While watching this movie it always felt like this was one of the late ’90s post-Scream slashers, even though it came out in 2005. Largely that had to do with the look of the film, and a large part of that was the way-too-good-looking cast of young people that was the hallmark of ’90s horror. Then when the end credits began (I must have blanked on the beginning credits or something) I saw why: not only was it produced by Kevin Williamson, the guy who wrote the Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer flicks, but it was directed by Jim Gillespie who directed the first I Know What You … yadda yadda … movie. So if you’re a fan of that generation of horror movies then you’ll probably dig this one as the Williamson flavor is definitely tangible here. If you hated that era of fright flicks then this probably won’t do much to change your mind. But you know what, it just might. I did like it a lot better than the evil Gorton Fisherman with the hook hand flicks. But hey, that might have just been the voodoo mojo in this movie that appealed to me.

This new Blu-ray was brought out by Echo Bridge. Now normally that means you can pick it up for a very good price, but it also means that it will be devoid of extras and perhaps not really live up to the video quality you would expect to find on a Blu-ray. Hey, sorry, but them are the facts. That said, this release was a bit of a surprise. The video transfer came off very well and the movie looked crisp, clear with bright colors and deep, dark blacks. It’s probably the best Blu-ray I’ve seen from Echo Bridge yet. Also, there were actually a few extras on the disc. Sure, they really weren’t anything to jump up and down about; a very brief (about eight minutes) making of segment, some storyboard to film comparisons, and a few audition tapes. However that’s a lot more in the way of extras than the typical release from this company, so I hope it’s a trend they continue to follow.

Venom was a nice little slice of fright film. It had an interesting premise, the young actors did a pretty decent job, and the film looked good and swampy. The makeup effects were sound, and the continually rotting Ray was a nice touch, but CGI effects were, as always, pretty damn weak and did nothing but make me think I was watching a cut scene from an videogame rather that seeing a film. That said, all in all I rather liked this much forgotten movie and if you give it a chance I think you may too.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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