Unlike other poisons, venom stands out because it's a built-in defense mechanism and/or predatory weapon found in a variety of species around the world. And when it comes to most of the poisonous snakes out there, not only is the stuff incredibly potent, but it's also delivered in enough mass quantity to kill an entire football team, let alone one individual.
Thus, it's not surprising that people have an eons-old fear of serpents, although for some that probably also stems from the biblical tale of Adam & Eve. Accordingly, you might think that a film entitled "Venom" -- where the main character is not so subtly named Eden -- might be an interesting take on the Old Testament tale. Then again, it could be an exciting thriller about a femme fatale (rather than the black widow, she could be the black mamba) or a snake-filled creep-out designed to make the temple scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" look like it was populated with earthworms.
No, you'll have to wait for the opening of the tentatively titled "Snakes on a Plane" for that (where the slithering action takes place within the confines of an airliner). While some serpents are present here (and are the driving force in this voodoo-inspired horror flick), they look fake which may explain why they then head inside a man's body, turning him into yet another bland boogeyman in an equally bland boogeyman pic.
As directed by Jim Gillespie ("D-Tox," "I Know What You Did Last Summer") from a script by Flint Dille & John Zuur Platten (who seem to have "written" various video games) and Brandon Boyce ("Wicker Park," "Apt Pupil"), the film unfolds in a small Louisiana town where a voodoo priestess literally digs up trouble from the past and unwittingly sets off the homicidal figure on his killing spree. Once that's in motion, we're then treated to the usual horror film where the scenes are filled with characters slowly making their way through darkened hallways and other environs looking for others or investigating mysterious sounds, etc. only to meet their eventual demise in progressively bloody and gory ways.
The problem -- that isn't exactly unexpected -- is that the filmmakers don't do anything particularly interesting or imaginative with the material that's not only familiar to fans of the genre, but is also awfully repetitive. And they've made the dual cardinal sin of not making any of the characters -- good or bad -- engaging in any fashion.
To get viewers involved in a film like this, you have to make them like and then worry about those in danger. Unfortunately, that doesn't occur. And the killer -- embodied by Rick Cramer ("The Battle of Shaker Heights," "Rat Race") in human form and then as the possessed, undead killer -- joins a long line of forgettable boogeymen with a one-note personality trait that's neither compelling nor scary. While I wasn't expecting the homicidal sarcasm of a Freddy Krueger, is it too much to ask for a truly scary or at least spooky killer in such films?
As the main character, Agnes Bruckner ("Murder by Numbers," "The Glass House") follows in the footsteps of many other shapely young actresses playing the pretty, slim and buxom heroine who's finally pushed into action and takes on the killer head-on. Jonathan Jackson ("Tuck Everlasting," "Insomnia"), D.J. Cotrona (the TV series "Skin") and Meagan Good ("You Got Served," "Biker Boyz") embody other would-be victims, but don't do much with them beyond fulfilling all of the requisite genre stereotypes. Singer turned actor Method Man ("Soul Plane," "Garden State") doesn't do anything but reinforce the old trend of the black character being one of the first to die.
In short, if you've seen one boogeyman film, you've already see this one. With a lot of hissing and rattling in terms of people meeting grisly ends, but little bite in terms of doing anything remotely unique, interesting or memorable with the material, this "Venom" isn't terribly potent and feels like it's been delivered by a de-fanged serpent.