STUDIO: Dimension Home Video
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 85 Minutes
Cast Auditions
"Voodoo Nightmare: The Making of Venom"
• Storyboard-to-film comparison

The Pitch

"It’s like our other movies, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream, except with a bit of voodoo occultism in place of a villain."

The Humans

Agnes Bruckner (who will someday feature in Lucky McKee’s The Woods, and who is a minor star in the making,) Jonathan Jackson, and Method Man. One of these three is not like the other, one of these three doesn’t die pointlessly…

The Nutshell

Jim Gillespie, director of I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Kevin Williams, of Scream fame, lend their names to a weak entry in the fading pop-slasher genre they helped solidify in the mid-nineties.

In a small town in Louisiana, a voodoo woman drives her car partway off a bridge. A passing truck driver stops to help her and, at the woman’s request, rescues a suitcase from the backseat of her car. As soon as the trucker touches the suitcase, the car edges off the bridge and falls into the deep river below. The contents of the suitcase transform the hapless trucker into an unstoppable killing machine who really, really hates teenagers.

*seal noises*

The Package

The look is pretty decent for mid-budget horror, with dank swampland featuring heavily in the set design. It’s presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and the darks are as good as they have to be. A number of the shots in broad daylight, however, have a gross and inconsistent oversaturation; it’s the kind of filmmaking decision (or accident) that leaps off the screen and announces its presence.

The sound is in Dolby digital 5.1, and makes very good use of the rear channels to evoke the sense of being hunted by an attacker who could come from any direction.

As for bonuses, you get a few cast audition reels, a marketing-centric making-of documentary, and a quick storyboard-to-film comparison. None are particularly noteworthy, but they are better than nothing.

The Lowdown

Well, you know your movie has a few problems when the front-cover blurb is more descriptive than superlative. The thing is that Venom starts out with a premise that, if not terribly unique, at least has immediate potential. For the first reel or so, you might think that the film will buck the slasher trend of completely flat characters. Agnes Bruckner’s protagonist is dead set on escaping the small town for the big city, and she exudes an air of angry boredom. The ill-fated trucker is the deadbeat dad of one of the other teens, who is given what looks as if it should be a meaty bone.

"Toro! Toro! Damnit, I said toro!"

Turns out it’s all just gristle. Once the killer arrives on the scene, the plot threads are left to blow in the wind. The writers off their characters in the wrong order, sabotaging any chance of developing interesting relationships, either between the teens or between the hunter and the victims.

Agnes Bruckner keeps up her good work throughout, and she makes a much better scream queen than lazy Neve Campbell or overeager Jennifer Love Hewitt ever did. The entire last half of the movie, unfortunately, gives her nothing to do but fight and scream — the pace of the film doesn’t let up, even when it ought to.

What started as an interesting premise and a likable cast ends up being just one more film about pretty people dying in sequence at the hands of an unstoppable murderer.

5 out of 10