WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Sony's Venom , in theaters Oct. 5.
At its core, the Venom symbiote is a scary concept. That’s where a lot of the initial appeal of the character came from, after all; its this alien goop that can control your body, shake your sanity, and turn anyone into a literal monster. The problem is that the creators behind the character have never been able decide if they want to embrace that aspect of the concept, or if they want him around as a grim and gritty anti-hero with a dark past.
The sad thing about Sony's Venom film is that it has flashes of being a genuinely scary film. There are sequences that set themselves up to be frightening, where the movie could really excel in the darkness if it would commit to the tone -- and then, it pulls back. Venom had the chance to be a genuinely scary horror film, and it probably should have committed to that.
Bump In The Night
The thing is, there are moments where Venom does want to be a horror film, which makes perfect sense, when you consider the source material. As in the comics, the Venom symbiote isn’t portrayed as just some weird power upgrade. It’s a frightening and alien thing, somethat can do stuff no one would wish on their worst enemies.
When possessed by the symbiote, Eddie Brock is unwittingly breaking bones. He tries apologizing, but his body moves on its own. He’s moves fast and hits hard, and it’s notable that many of his targets don’t get up. There are grisly injuries all around the movie, with the symbiotes either causing them or healing from them. And all of this is happening against Eddie’s will, which is scary! Hardy’s goofy surprise is great in its own way, but it makes Venom a completely different movie.
There’s a simple savagery to the violence that makes it more shocking than Spider-Man kicking someone in the head. People lose their heads, on-screen. With that level of brutality, Venom should be more like Jason Vorhees than Spider-Man.
But Venom can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be, meaning a moment where a police officer almost gets his head bitten clean off by is immediately followed about a gag where Eddie has to explain the Venom symbiote to Annie. It undercuts the impact of the scares.