Venom (2005)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Laura Ramsey, D.J. Cotrona, Rick Cramer
Extras: Featurette, Cast Audition Footage, Storyboard to Film Comparison

To write a review about "Venom" and completely attack every shred of its existence, to me, would simply be a complete waste of time. Is "Venom" perfect? Not a chance, but I will give credit where credit is due and that first goes to makeup and special effects for bringing the zombie Ray (Rick Cramer) to the screen in all his gory detail. I also thought that the setting of the Louisiana swamps made for some cool looking visuals, especially when lit for night scenes. That being said, story and acting go straight out the window and we don't need to pass that off as the usual formula for a horror film. Surprising also to see a film from the horror genre come with a "restricted" rating; it's comforting to know that filmmakers are steering away from the brutal "PG-13" watered down stuff that we have been subjected to for the past few too many years. "Venom" is by no means the vehicle that will take us back to the good old days of horror, witnessed in the Seventies through the early Nineties, but it sure is a stab (no pun intended) in the right direction.

When beatnik tow truck driver Ray (Rick Cramer) witnesses an automobile accident involving a would be hoodoo priestess (hoodoo is the more sinister practice of voodoo from an ancient African system of magi-botanical art and African folk magic, practiced by specialized priests) on a rickety wooden bridge, he attempts to save her life. With two local teens looking on, Ray, considered to be the town's resident oddball, thanks to the clichéd scars and mysterious demeanor, rescues the woman from her car as it clings to the side of the bridge. Getting the woman out of the car was one thing; she then insists that Ray return to the teetering vehicle to retrieve a suitcase from the back seat, one containing ancient "milked souls" that take the form of slithering snakes! Are you still with me? So, as an unwilling Ray returns to recover the suitcase, he is attacked by the escaping snakes, while the car slides off of the side of the bridge and into the murky swamp below. Soon after, Ray returns in full zombie form, supposedly fuelled by the lost "souls" from the snake bites as he exits the town morgue, much to the horror of a medical staffer. This sets the tone for the rest of the film that contains the ever infamous; screaming teens, splattering blood and the angering stupidity of the characters that walk straight into harms way only to meet a certain and violent death. As I said, there is not too much in the way of perfection wrapped up in "Venom", but horror fans might just enjoy the "R" rated gore and murderously mind numbing fun.

Dimension Home Video fleshes out a fantastic looking transfer for "Venom" on DVD. Offering deep rich black levels, which capture every sinister detail contained within the nighttime swampy settings that balance well with the misty fog present in the surrounding woods. Color saturation is also well done, displaying the rich red tones of various gory scenes to maintaining naturally appearing skin tones. Overall transfer quality is top notch, exhibiting no dust, dirt particles or any noticeable signs of grain or video compression whatsoever.

With a well balanced soundstage that takes full advantage of highlighting frightening scenes by maintaining decent bass levels throughout, this Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is sure to impress. The soundtrack also provides naturally appearing vocals and makes good use of all available channels.

Basing the main character from the video game "Backwater", producer Kevin Williams (Scream, The Faculty) divulges his plans for this film in the featurette titled "Voodoo Nightmare: The Making of Venom", where he states that he is attempting to bring a new horror villain franchise to the table; in the tradition of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Kevin, I'm sorry to say that you failed to succeed. The special features section also includes a storyboard to film comparison of four key scenes, as well as cast audition footage.

Unfortunately a great presentation matched with a terrific sonic presence does not make a great movie. Horror fans might just see enough in "Venom" to warrant a rental, if not for the well presented gore, minus the hideously lame CGI snakes that thankfully only occupy minimal screen time. I would not recommend a full out purchase of this title as there simply is not enough going for it to even warrant a second viewing.