If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all — isn’t that how the polite saying goes? (Or maybe it’s: If you can’t say anything nice, come sit by me. At least that’s how Olympia Dukakis’ character delivers the line in “Steel Magnolias.”)
In searching for something to say about “Venom” — which, like “Steel Magnolias,” was shot and set in Louisiana — the nicest thing is this: It sure looks and sounds like the bayou. You can see the steam in the humid night air in director Jim Gillespie’s movie, you can hear the crickets chirping and almost reach out and touch the sweat glistening on the shoulders of the film’s attractive young stars.
But you wouldn’t want to, because they’re all being pursued relentlessly by a serial killer, and you might get an appendage lopped off by a crowbar or a knife or the front end of a tow truck.
All this happens and more, as a man possessed by evil souls through a voodoo snake ritual — a man named Ray (Rick Cramer) who already was considered a pretty creepy dude in the film’s small town — wreaks deadly havoc in the swamp.
(Yes, the movie is about people dying in Louisiana. This is probably something you’ve seen enough of already following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It’s sort of amazing that “Venom” is seeing the light of day at all, but Miramax has to unload it and everything else before the Weinstein brothers depart Disney on Sept. 30.)
And so aspiring doctor Eden (Agnes Bruckner), her boyfriend, Eric (Jonathan Jackson), their friends (Bijou Phillips, Laura Ramsey, Meagan Good and D.J. Catrona) and a couple of law enforcement officials run for their lives with varying degrees of success.
Gillespie also directed “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Kevin Williamson of “Dawson’s Creek” and the “Scream” series is one of the producers. Video game creators Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten wrote the script.
But you won’t find a drop of irony here: This is a straight-up slasher flick, which probably should have gone straight to video, for the cheesy-looking, computer-generated snakes alone. Potential victims do stupid things like ride a bike home from work, alone, at night in the fog. Or wander into a dilapidated, deserted gas station and yell out, “Hello?” over and over until someone they probably didn’t want to meet up with answers their calls.
It’s hard not to laugh at a couple of scenes that weren’t meant to be funny, though. One features the teenage friends — who have holed up in a creaky old house full of voodoo accoutrements, similar to this summer’s “The Skeleton Key” — using one of their own (who’s already dead) as a voodoo doll, and stabbing him repeatedly in the leg to slow the killer down.
“I know it doesn’t make any sense but something really, really weird is going on,” Eden says as people begin disappearing.
Thankfully, at 87 minutes, it doesn’t go on for long.