Although it starts off with a rather beautiful shot of a thunderstorm reflected in the water of a swamp at night, "Venom" quickly becomes quite a bit less pretty. The picture, which comes from the pairing of director Jim Gillespie ("I Know What You Did Last Summer") and producer Kevin Williamson ("I Know", "Scream") moves quickly at a little over 80 minutes, but never stops feeling like a retread of countless other movies that have come through theaters in the past ten years or so. While the picture doesn't click as well as it should, horror fans will likely be pleased to know that at least the picture remains R-rated, and not edited down to a PG-13.
The picture focuses on a group of teens in a small Southern town. Meanwhile, an old voodoo priestess is out in the swamps, digging up the ground and unearthing a mysterious box. On her way to get rid of the box, she's nearly run off the road by a local trucker named Ray (Rick Cramer). He tries to save the car and ends up opening the box, which happens to be full of "voodoo snakes" apparently hungry after being buried for ages. While it looks like he's gone for good, it's not long before he's reanimated by the power of the snakes, and goes on a rampage.
"Venom" doesn't click simply because we don't care about these characters. They're even more one-dimensional than most teens in horror films, and a few of them (including one played by Bijou Phillips) are rather annoying. Even when the film does attempt to move quickly, if we're not involved in the characters, the film's action-heavy second half still doesn't result in much tension.
The cast actually includes a couple of decent actors, such as Agnes Bruckner, whose performances in films like "Blue Car" once landed on her on many "Next Big Thing" lists. I'm guessing this is one flick she'll think twice about putting on her resume. Megan Good also offers a performance that's a bit above the rest of the flick as a girl who happens to be the daughter of the voodoo priestess, and who just may know how to stop what's going on.
"Venom" certainly is far from the best that the genre has to offer, but the ridiculousness (even for the genre) of it makes for some moderately watchable stretches. While horror audiences often have to scream for characters not to open a door, go in that house, open that car, etc., "Venom" is the first film in memory where the characters don't do anything - there are scenes where they inexplicably just stand there when the villian is walking towards them. As horror pictures go, this is a "time-waster."
VIDEO: "Venom" is presented by Dimension in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film's image quality is generally very fine, with the only concern being that it does look a bit on the soft side throughout. Aside from the somewhat average detail and definition, the only other concern was the presence of some slight artifacts at times. No edge enhancement or print flaws were spotted, and the film's subdued color palette appeared accurately presented, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: "Venom" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack is a pretty generic horror sound mix: surrounds are used occasionally to deliver some sound effects and ambience, while the front speakers offer clear dialogue and the occasional loud "jump" effect. Overall, not bad, but some scenes could have used some additional outdoor ambience to envelop the viewer in the eerie atmosphere.
EXTRAS: "Making of" documentary, storyboard-to-film comparisons and cast audition tapes.
Final Thoughts: I was never terribly bored by "Venom", but I wasn't involved much in the film, either. It stands as a mediocre horror picture that has moments and a couple of decent performances, but also works with a lot of cliches. Dimension's DVD edition provides fine audio/video quality, as well as a few minor supplements. Horror fans looking for a rental may want to try this, but should not go in with terribly high expectations.