Venom (2005)

venom-2005-dvdKnow this film? You probably don’t. As a matter of fact, not a lot of people really know what exactly “Venom” is and that it had a very short run in theaters. And bombed in spite of its good cast and Kevin Williamson helping to fuel the film. Once called “Backwater”, then called “The Reaper”, and now “Venom”, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I’d heard. It’s no masterpiece, but hey, it beats “House of Wax” by a couple of inches.

I’m going to take a lot of flack for this review, but, sometimes you respond to certain movies regardless of its bad reviews. Ray is a hated tow truck driver who nearly crashes in to a woman one night. He saves her from her car teetering on a cliff and tries to grab her suitcase, but he is trapped, the suitcase unleashes venomous snakes who proceed to bite him and he drowns. Ray returns as a monster powered by the demonic snakes, and now wants the teenagers… because–you know–he’s evil and stuff. I know some of you who have seen this deeming this awful are surprised that I liked this, but hey, join the club. For me though, “Venom” is typical, but also a lot of fun. Gillespie’s direction is chock full of suspense and nuance with some very good set pieces that added to the tension just right, and though Ray is a poor attempt at a franchising character, he is a fun villain whose design is pretty gruesome.

And much like the croc from “Peter Pan”, the jangling of his keys means he’s a comin’ for you whether you like it or not. This uber-“Pumpkinhead” tale is powered by its seasoned leads from Jonathan Jackson who has really pulled off some good films in his career, and Agnes Bruckner who really holds up the other end as the heroine. She’s a truly talented actress who can pack a punch (See: “Blue Car”, “Empire Falls”), and though this is now a blemish on her resume she’d rather not speak of, her performance was very good. I quite like Bruckner and I hope she becomes a well-respected actress and continues with her independent film career. You may scoff that I liked this so much, but I’ll just ignore your groans and say that this was a fun movie for me, and I’m not usually so responsive to these cookie cutter horror flicks.

The scenes in the house where they’re hiding from Ray were very well done and that damn Ray really is a resourceful fella, not to mention there’s that bayou scene, which was tense and great in spite of being too short. It really reminded me of “The Relic” and had it been played out longer with more characters, it could have made the movie much more worth watching. “Venom” had its surefire high points with enough tension and scares to keep me entertained and Gillespie knows how to direct a damn fine B grade horror film. When I was finished with “Venom” I sat in my chair and thought “So, that’s the reason why it was trashed”. The biggest problem with this ho-hum horror flick? It just doesn’t know when to quit. Ray keeps coming and coming and the climax goes on much too long for us to remain patient with it.

The three (count them) three writers couldn’t think of an original way to end this, so they stick us with a question mark ending that I basically saw coming from miles away. Why must we get a question mark ending? What’s the point? Is someone in Hollywood actually planning a sequel? Did we really need yet another tense drawn out chase scene and woman vs. monster fight that came too little too late? Also, it’s not all there in originality and creativity. “Venom” is an utterly shameless and surefire hybrid of “I Know What you Did Last Summer” and “Pumpkinhead” also featuring your typical exposition in which the cast of characters explain to one another their own back stories as if they didn’t already know. I mean who talks like that, really? Couldn’t you have ten minutes establishing their situations without having them explain it to us?

And then there are the plot holes. Oh boy, the plot holes. This group of teenagers live in the Louisiana outback–yet have no accents–and they’re all white… okay, if you say so. Where was Cece’s grandmother going with those snakes? What was she planning to do with them? If Cece was so knowledgeable in voodoo why didn’t she know the necklace would stop Ray? And if she really didn’t know, why did she make a point of taking it from her grandmother’s body? If Ray’s work was finished once he killed Cece, why did he keep going after the two main characters? And which is it, does Ray need to kill thirteen people, or the final in Cece’s family’s bloodline? Once Ray finished killing his victims, then what? How did he get out of the tomb? Wouldn’t kids that grew up in the Louisiana outback basically know their way around the swamps, and roads? Where were the alligators in the swamp? “

Venom” is then mired by utterly horrible editing that made it impossible to get in to the story with an odd vibrating camera angle every time Ray kills someone, while Bijou Phillips gives the worst performance of her mediocre career as the basic Rose McGowan carbon copy sticking around to flash her body and then dying in an inadvertently comical way. Tisk, tisk. It won’t win prizes in originality, or creativity, that I’ll attest to, but for me, it works very well as a guilty pleasure. Though it’s a shameless hybrid of “I Know what You Did Last Summer” and “Pumpkin Head” it works because Gillespie’s inspired direction, and the great leads that convince us of this horror happening to them. It’s cliché, ridiculous, ho-hum, and if you blink you may miss the plot, but it’s also fun, very tense, and occasionally creepy. Plus, Ray is kick ass.