Venom (DVD)

Starring Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Laura Ramsey, D. J. Cotrona, and Rick Cramer

Directed by Jim Gillespie

Released by Dimension Home Video

Louisiana has long been the home of much mystery. You never know what could be waiting for you nestled deep within its swamps. From Voodoo practitioners performing their ancient rituals to a bevy of insects and animals waiting to feast upon adventurous wanderers, it’s never truly safe. Especially at night. But just when you think you have seen it all, mystery takes shape again. There is something dreadful residing there in its murky landscape, and I’m not talking about Kate Hudson making dull and lifeless films about Hoodoo. Lurking through the night is an unstoppable killer with an insatiable blood lust, and with him are the most ridiculously bad CGI snakes I have ever seen. Turn out the lights, get out the waders, and get ready to jump head first into a bloody night of vengeance through the undead world of Ray Sawyer.

Venom is an odd film to review. Admittedly it is far from perfect. To be honest, it’s not really even that good. However, there’s something about it that this reviewer finds irresistible. It’s a throwback to the heyday of the slasher film. While we’ve all seen this type of film thousands of times by now, it still successfully evokes quite a nostalgic feeling. Venom would feel very much at home had it been released back when cineplexes were populated by flims like The Burning, Hell Night, or Madman. It’s a mindless bloody slasher film, and in this PG13 rated world I am grateful for every ounce of blood spilled.

The storyline is simple: A local Voodoo priestess, or Mambo as she is called, has been regularly taking part in a ritual that milks the evil from men’s souls via snake bites. Of course things go awry, and quicker than you can say “bastard son of a thousand maniacs,” the snakes escape to kill and then take up residence inside the deceased body of the local weirdo redneck trucker. With the snakes’ venom coursing through his veins, Ray Sawyer begins his killing spree, mainly targeting the granddaughter of the Mambo and her friends. Of course the inevitable question of how do you kill something that is already dead? is posed, but thankfully a nice little body count mounts up before anyone has a chance to find the answer.

What’s mainly wrong with the slasher films of today is that the teens have become the stars and the killers have started playing second fiddle. Teens are meant to be fodder for killers, damnit! Back in the day we never went to the movies to see a Friday the 13th movie because some hot young actor or a musician were in it. We went because Jason fucking Voorhees was gonna hack up everyone else to our delight. Teens were never on the movie posters, they were meat for the beast. Plain and simple. That was the fun of a slasher film. Fans don’t care what you screamed last summer while listening to urban legends and hanging out with your valentine. We care that we get the gory goods through inspired means, and Venom does a competent enough job of giving us just that.

On the DVD extras side of things we get some audition reels, a storyboard-to-film comparison, and a by the numbers making-of featurette. That may not sound like a lot, but it gets the job done. My only gripe is that I wish a commentary track with the film’s director Jim Gillespie had been included. It’s obvious that Gillespie is a horror fan, and when you have someone who is a fan of the type of film that they’re making doing the commentary, it’s usually an insightful good time.

Venom is a good bloody ride and never tries to be more than that. The filmmakers set out to make a horror film and provide the audience with some mindless fun. To that I say bravo. Movies don’t have to be made with epic intentions to get the job done. Even though there’s nothing special to be found here, there is something blissfully familiar. Slasher fans looking for something to watch will slide into Venom like an old sweater that feels just right.

Special Features
Cast auditions
Voodoo Nightmare: The Making of Venom
Storyboard-to-film comparison

2 ½ out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

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