One of the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina is that several movies preparing to be shot in Louisiana have had to be moved to other locations. It’s an unfortunate bit of timing for the state, which was in the middle of a filmmaking boom that included “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Skeleton Key.” You’ll note that neither of those films was anything special. “Venom,” shot in Louisiana ages ago and only now being released, is worse than both of them. Maybe it’s for the best that Louisiana not be tainted by any Hollywood productions for a while.
Previously titled “The Reaper” and “Backwater” before finally settling on “Venom,” it is an old-school slasher movie, complete with randy teens, the slaughtering of hateful characters who were made hateful just so we’d enjoy seeing them get slaughtered, and a scene where a dead person comes back to life in the morgue and kills the coroner. The only thing separating this from a “Friday the 13th” episode is its release date (Friday the 16th — so close!).
In a small Louisiana town where no one has a Southern accent, a white-trash tow-truck driver (pardon the redundancy) named Ray (Rick Cramer) is killed in a weird accident that involves him being in the backseat of a car that falls off a bridge. The fall isn’t really what kills him, though; it’s being attacked by the contents of a suitcase that is also in the backseat, those contents being deadly computer-generated snakes.
Why was there a box of snakes in the backseat? Why, voodoo, of course! An old voodoo practitioner had special skills that enabled her to “milk” the souls of people and put them in snakes, thus saving them (the people) from damnation (I think). So those weren’t just any old snakes. Those were snakes that had the evil of a thousand murderers and rapists in them! Which means now Ray has that, too! Except he’s dead, so it’s OK!
Except he doesn’t stay dead for long, obviously. Soon he’s driving his tow truck around, killing teens with a crowbar and generally making a nuisance of himself. Among his targets are: his own illegitimate son (D.J. Cotrona), who was ashamed to have Ray for a father even when he was alive, let alone when he’s dead and murdering people; couple-in-love Eden (Agnes Brucker) and Eric (Jonathan Jackson), who are having a spat because she’s about to go to New York for college; Rachel (Laura Ramsey), who looks exactly like Eden and has no discernible personality traits; and Ricky (Pawel Szajda), who is in the gang for comic relief, I think. All of these people are hot, and some of them wind up with crowbars in them.
Also, there’s Cece (Meagan Good), the granddaughter of the zombie practitioner, who picked up some mad skillz at grandma’s knee and who just might be able to send Ray back to the grave. Maybe that was the intent of the screenplay (written by three people, two of whom have mostly video games for writing credits). The film’s finale was obviously shot long after the rest of the movie — it’s even on different film stock — so who knows what director Jim Gillespie (“I Know What You Did Last Summer”) changed his mind on.
Apparently he changed his mind on being scary, though, because not a moment of it is. There are a couple mildly creative deaths, I suppose, and plenty of attractive gore. But mostly it’s a lifeless, uninspired horror flick that ought to have been left in whatever hole they found it in.
F (1 hr., 25 min.; )