The dire new horror movie Venom marks the reunion of I Know What You Did Last Summer director Jim Gillespie and screenwriter Kevin Williamson, but it's the depressing kind of reunion where the once-sexy singer now sports a potbelly and thinning gray ponytail, and the original rhythm section has been replaced by a roadie and the original drummer's second cousin. Williamson is only the film's producer, but the slasher rules he laid down in the original Scream prove useful in helping audiences ascertain who will die and in what order. Let's see: per time-honored tradition, African-Americans are among the first to go, even in a voodoo movie, followed by Bijou Phillips, because, well, she's Bijou Phillips, and nobody wants an obnoxious second-generation pop tart to make it to the end. That leaves only a pair of boyfriends and the two female leads. One dreams of becoming a successful hairstylist. The other is headed to Columbia on a scholarship. Guess which one makes it to the end credits?
Venom wastes Blue Car and Rick's formidable Agnes Bruckner as a plucky New York-bound waitress in a shitty backwater town decimated by a series of voodoo-related murders committed by Rick Cramer, the undead proprietor and sole owner of the ironically named "Happy Time" gas station. In keeping with the rapid evolution of zombies evidenced in such films as 28 Days Later and the Dawn Of The Dead remake, Cramer not only regularly threatens to outwit his prey, but also proves to be a pretty good driver for someone possessed by the evil spirits of the dead and/or malevolent swamp snakes.
Gillespie showed a real knack for '80s-style retro horror with I Know What You Did, and while a few sequences here have the familiar-but-enjoyable framing and stylization of an old EC horror comic, his material defeats him. A good half of the film seems devoted to scenes in which minor characters creep around investigating suspicious sounds before reaching gruesome ends, which affords too little time for even the minimal level of character development needed for this kind of genre schlock. Depressingly but unsurprisingly, Venom is based on the story for a video game currently in development, and was co-written by veteran video-game scribes Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten. Their work here only confirms that their meager talents are perhaps best showcased in 30-second between-play interludes.