Take your ultra-standard slasher screenplay, spice it up with a nice dose of good ol' fashioned New Orleans voodoo-vibe, keep the creepy kills comin', and dash it all off with a nice sense of grim and grimy style.
Venom surely won't win any originality prizes (or screenplay or acting) and at 80 scant minutes in length, the thing barely qualifies as an actual movie ... but if you're the sort of horror freak who scours all the low-end cheese markets just searching for a few tasty morsels, Venom might just do the trick. It's the same old meal you've had a hundred times before, with the added bonuses of brevity, atmosphere, and one nasty attitude.
Since we're dealing with a low-maintenance collaboration between director Jim Gillespie and producer Kevin Williamson, you won't be surprised to realize that Venom starts out with a decidedly I Know What You Did Last Summer-ish approach: a bunch of dippy teens witness/cause a fatal accident, and they must now become assembly line slaughter-meat when the pissed-off and recently deceased comes back from grave baring tons of freaky scars and a big nasty hook.
Ah, but instead of a goofball in a rain slicker we not get Voodoo Undead Slasher Dude, and let me tell you at least one piece of good news: This guy is, horror-wise, kind of a bad-ass. This monster runs and drives and displays a real urgency while impaling his latest victims. Combined with Gillespie's no-frills directorial style, the second half of Venom flies by in a storm of blood, guts, shrieking, and assorted pieces of mayhem.
Too bad the filmmakers are simply re-re-treading the same old real estate. There's not a lick of real originality or creativity to be found within Venom's brief running time, but there's also very few blathering expositional sequences or moments where you'll be checking your watch. It's not a particularly good horror movie, but it is a nastily efficient one.
The cast of photogenic faces (Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Bijou Phillips, etc.) does no real harm, as all they're asked to do here is offer just a bit of voodoo-related backstory before spending the next hour being chased, terrorized, and splattered.
Ultimately, Venom is too darn familiar to become anyone's dark-horse favorite, and the screenplay is more bland and familiar than it is outright terrible, but I'd say it's worthy of a rental if you love the horror stuff. You probably won't adore the thing, but you'll most likely admire its nasty tenacity.
Video: The movie is presented in a fairly solid anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer. Certainly not reference quality, but it's a Miramax DVD of a go-nowhere horror flick.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, which is actually pretty impressive. The score isn't half bad, and its balanced well with the intermittent volleys of dialogue. Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
Extras: There's a pretty bland featurette called Voodoo Nightmare: The Making of Venom. The bulk of the 8.5-minute affair consists of cast & crew members trying desperately to talk about the topic of voodoo magic, despite that fact that they obviously know absolutely nothing about it. Try not to cringe as one of the actors says "We're shooting in New Orleans. We're in hell." (Someone maybe should have snipped that unintentionally unpleasant remark from the featurette.) You'll also find a storyboard-to-film comparison and a series of six cast auditions from Rick Cramer, D.J. Corona, Laura Ramsey, Pawel Szajda, Davetta Sherwood, and Bijou Phillips.
Hell, the fact that the producers kept the flick dark and gruesome, instead of watering it down into a PG-13 tease, is worthy of some small praise. Precisely how much praise is up to the individual viewer, but I tend to appreciate the little things in my horror movies. Like a scary tone, some surprise shocks, and a decent amount of the sticky stuff.