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The filmmakers couldn't have hatched up a better, more apt title for Venom, a horror film wholly devoid of scares. The word ''sadistic'' also comes to mind when describing this movie, which also fittingly explains the moviegoer's experience having to sit through this crap.


Venom is an extremely distorted horror tale of a group of teenagers so large and similar, that only after each is inexplicably slain do you breathe a sigh of relief. Set in the swamps of a New Orleans town-- yes, unfortunate timing--which oozes voodoo folklore, the story starts with local outcast Ray (Rick Cramer) mysteriously dying--sort of. A venom has been passed to him just before he died, allowing him to be resurrected. Now as an evil undead incarnation, whose gait and physique remind you of Vincent D'Onofrio's bug imitation in Men in Black, Ray has a fever to kill, and the only remedy is...more cowbell. Just kidding. It's the souls of the town's scantily clad teenage girls and the washboard-abs totin' teenage guys, of course. Their only defense against Ray is to make a voodoo doll. Problem is, voodoo-doll rules mandate that either the blood or the hair of the person must be possessed--and that's a little difficult since Ray keeps killing them before they can get it. You just can't make this stuff up!


It's a shame Method Man is quickly dispatched because he's probably Venom's most qualified actor. By default, the honor then falls to Agnes Bruckner--and our condolences go out to her. Even as the film's lone bright spot, the young actress might want to have a serious conversation with her agent. Since her lauded performance in 2002's Blue Car, she's been in a number of clunkers when she should have at least been offered the roles concurrent ''It'' girl Scarlett Johansson turned down. Then there's Jonathan Jackson, best known as Mud in 1994's Camp Nowhere. Jackson lends the urgency and logic he's supposed to but still comes off as being somewhat precocious. The rest of the cast is rounded out with a number of early-20s fringe survivors, all in the same proximity of the proverbial brink. But they aren't responsible for Venom's many pitfalls. Truth is, you might be able to see how the actors thought Venom might become another I Know What You Did Last Summer.


Venom has the feel of a Kevin Williamson-written movie gone awry. This might have something to do with the fact that the writer of all three Screams is Venom's producer. He relinquished his role as go-to cheesy-horror scribe to three writers--one of which, no doubt, was brought in to clean up the mess that was the original script, but a job poorly done by all three nonetheless. Williamson also left the directing duties up to his protégé, Jim Gillespie (I Know What You Did Last Summer). At times, Gillespie's direction feels like a bad student film. Gillespie uses thick smog for the scenes in the backwoods so gratuitously that it's shocking when he actually cuts to a scene in the daytime--not to mention disruptive to the viewers' circadian rhythm as they are trying to sleep. All in all, it's as if some young, amateur director who idolizes the cult classics of yore made an extremely sub-par scare flick.

Bottom Line

Sadly, the only thing Venom has going for it is the Weinstein brothers' refusal to push it back despite being set in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, thus creating buzz. Mercy points for its brevity, as well.