The young population of the appropriately named Louisiana swamp town of Backwater is under attack, for an accident involving a suitcase full of magical snakes has left the corpse of town outcast and gas station owner Ray (Rick Cramer) possessed by all the evil the local voodoo priestess milked out of people (don’t ask). That’s obviously a whole lot of evil, and so Zombie Ray first kills the coroner, then Method Man, and then starts on the town’s young.
Will obvious final girl Eden (Agnes Bruckner) manage to save some of her
friends from certain doom? And how will she get rid of a tow truck driving
Despite appearances, Jim Gillespie’s throwback to the supernatural slasher
stylings of the 80s is a rather fun little flick. As it goes with its particular
subgenre, it’s not a terrible clever film, but at least it is not the kind of
film where the bad guy is dispatched by a kung fu kicking Bustah Rhymes.
Instead the film takes its own silliness seriously and expects the audience to
roll with it.
That’s not particularly difficult, for there’s quite a bit to recommend here.
For one, the film puts in a decent effort to portray its Louisiana dead end town
as a place, if the kind of place where only our young murder victims, Ray, a
sheriff and deputy, a coroner and a mother seem to live. It’s not exactly a
naturalistic approach, but the film does have quite a few atmospheric shots of
swamps and the always empty (apart from the diner) town, driving home that this
isn’t a generic backwater, but indeed much more specific Backwater.
It also puts a bit of effort into giving its meat broad stroke character
traits and conflicts slightly above and beyond the question of who sleeps with
whom. It’s not deep, but it’s deep enough to make most of the characters feel a
bit less disposable, even though I have a hard time imagining anyone
being crushed by anyone’s death.
These deaths aren’t half bad either, realized with decent practical effects
and a good eye for the slightly gruesome (it’s mainstream horror and not a gore
movie after all) and embedded in just as decent slash and stalk scenes.
The longer Venom goes on, the larger its sillier vein becomes, and
once we enter the final third, bets are off enough that a completely
straight-faced scene where the more survivable of our protagonists use the dead
body of one of their friends as an oversized voodoo doll with an assorted
discussion about the morality of such a thing is just par for the course. I’m
not complaining, mind you, because I do prefer imaginative nonsense played
straight to the alternatives of unimaginative nonsense or awkward irony, or
worse, a combination of both.
So, while Venom certainly isn’t an overlooked classic, it is
a good-sized chunk of effective, slightly crazy fun, just the thing to watch
when you’re not up for something more involving.