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Movie Review

Miss Emmie is a “mambo woman”—a voodoo priestess—and she’s on an urgent mission. Real estate development is encroaching on the secret graveyard where’s she’s buried 13 evils spirits that have taken the form of snakes. After digging up the suitcase that holds them, she gets in a traffic accident before she can rebury them.

Ray, a tow truck driver, saves Miss Emmie as her car totters on the edge of a bridge, and because the barely conscious woman seems so concerned about the suitcase on the seat, he goes back for it. Bad idea. The car topples into the bayou with Ray inside. As the vehicle fills with water, the suitcase springs open, releasing the venomous snakes.

Ray’s dead, right? Wrong. Well, not completely wrong. His body may technically be dead, but the snakes injected their evil spirits into him by biting him as the car sank. So what’s a dead, evil-spirit-infested body to do? Why, chase handsome teenagers through the bayous, of course, picking them off one by one in manners most foul—and mostly copied from the numerous other dead-teenager movies in the slasher-flick genre.

Positive Elements

Local boy Eric gives his life to save his girlfriend, Eden. Rather than spend her money on fancy clothes and cars as the other teenagers do, Eden is saving her pennies for college.

Spiritual Content

Venom is rife with voodoo mythology. Miss Emmie speaks various voodoo incantations in Creole French as she digs up the suitcase of evil spirits. She wears an amulet that consists of a rattlesnake skull, which supposedly keeps evil spirits at bay. (Eden later uses the same amulet to keep Ray away.) The suitcase is marked with voodoo symbols.

Miss Emmie’s house is surrounded by voodoo fetishes and stick crosses. They're to keep evil spirits out, as is a line of brick dust across the threshold. (Or at least I assume so, since that was the case in the recent Skeleton Key, and everything you see at the movies is true, right?) An interior room contains a voodoo temple. Miss Emmie's granddaughter, Cece, says, “For generations people worshipped here. It’s a religion with both evil and good spirits.” Eric counters, “Voodoo isn’t real. It’s just Louisiana folklore.”

It’s said that the possessed Ray must kill in order to sacrifice spirits to the “dark lords.” Cece describes the voodoo ceremony in which a mambo woman uses snakes to “milk” the evil spirits from dying people, thereby “saving their souls.” “Grandma saved the souls of murders, sadists and the most violent of men,” Cece explains. (The snakes in Miss Emmie’s suitcase had been used for such purposes.)

Cece turns the fresh corpse of Ray’s son, Sean, into a life-size voodoo doll. (Because Ray’s “blood” flowed in Sean’s veins, this makes any voodoo performed on him even more powerful.) As Ray attacks, Cece repeatedly stabs Sean’s corpse/voodoo doll in the leg, crippling him.

Sexual Content

Some of the teen girls wear tight clothing and low-cut blouses, and one wears a skimpy bikini (she makes out with a guy in the water). A girl twice pulls down her shirt to expose her bra and cleavage, and brags about her “rack.” Two crude slang terms for male genitals are used. A girl insists that some people are born gay.

Violent Content

Frequent, intense and gruesome. Ray uses a giant crowbar to rip open and impale his victims, then “hooks” the dead bodies under the jaw to drag them away. In one case Ray stabs a boy in the chest, and we see the crowbar spurt through his back, with gore dripping from it. We see his various victims with huge gashes in the faces and necks or their abdomens ripped open. Ray slashes one girl’s throat with a large knife, and we see the wound spurt blood. A boy is “stapled” to a staircase with the crowbar, and his arm is then ripped off, complete with gruesome sound effects. Ray uses the bloody stump to make a snake symbol on the side of a house. He also dips his finger into the bloody wounds of his victims and uses the blood to draw a snake symbol on their foreheads.

Need I continue? Yes, but only in vague generalities. A high-pressure air hose is used as a murder weapon. A car is dropped onto a girl. Also used against various unfortunate souls (usually while they're still in their bodies) are tow chains, tow trucks, shotguns, tree branches, screwdrivers, fire and snakes. Charred and/or dismembered bodies get a sickening amount of screen time.

Crude or Profane Language

Twenty-plus uses of the f-word and nearly as many s-words. God's and Jesus’ names are dragged through the muck nearly 20 times, too. A girl makes an obscene gesture.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Sean plies a couple of underage girls with booze because they say they’re not drunk yet. Sean drinks beer and then races off on his motorcycle while drunk. As part of a voodoo ritual, Cece spits cognac onto a corpse and gets Eden to do the same. She also pours some on the floor and ignites it. Sean says that his mom got pregnant with him while drunk.

Other Negative Elements

A girl admits to stealing a bra and brags about being a “crook.” She also steals money from a cash register. Another says she needs to "pee," and the camera then focuses on a disgustingly foul toilet. A man vomits. A morgue technician squeezes down on a body’s chest, causing water to gurgle up from the lungs and out the mouth.


Venom is certainly a well-named movie. The filmmakers present a toxic gumbo of blood, gore, voodoo and vulgarity as foul as the waters of the deepest, darkest bayou. This is supposed to be a super-scary slasher flick. But it's not. It's merely revolting. And lazy. You can practically see the screenwriters and director ticking things off a prefab list: “Full moon? Check. Creepy swamp fog? Check. Dimly lit rooms? Check. Hey, let’s see what would happen if you turned a high-pressure air hose on a person!”

I could deploy many other metaphors of poison, muck and murk to describe this spiritually treacherous film, but why bother? You wouldn’t play with a poisonous snake. Why mess with this venomous offering?

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Agnes Bruckner as Eden; Jonathan Jackson as Eric; Laura Ramsey as Rachel; D.J. Cotrona as Sean; Rick Cramer as Ray; Meagan Good as Cece; Bijou Phillips as Tammy; Davetta Sherwood as Patty; Pawel Szajda as Ricky; Deborah Duke as Miss Emmie


Jim Gillespie ( )


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Tom Neven

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