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Reviewed June 4th, 2002 by David Nusair


Poor Treat Williams. Here is one of the most talented and charismatic actors out there Ė perfect leading man material Ė stuck in a never-ending cycle of straight-to-video crap. Venomous marks his latest, and while itís not as bad as it could have been, thatís really not saying much.

The movie casts Williams as a small town doctor who finds himself in the midst of a rapidly spreading outbreak. As we learn in a pre-titles sequence, a group of genetically enhanced snakes escaped from a top-secret government facility over ten years ago. They have been in hiding ever since, but a series of earthquakes have forced them above ground. A single bite from one of these deadly reptiles causes death within a matter of hours. Williams initially attempts to treat the victims traditionally Ė with antibiotics and such Ė but quickly discovers itís going to take more than common medicine to cure this virus. Luckily, Williamsí estranged wife just happens to work for disease control. He informs her of the situation, and she in turn informs her superior Ė a shady army type who knows all about these mutated snakes. The remainder of the movie essentially follows the exact same plot as Outbreak, right down to a chase involving helicopters and the infection of Williamsí wife.

Venomous, directed by legendary schlockmeister Fred Olan Ray (under a pseudonym, for some odd reason), feels like one of those cheesy TBS disaster movies. Itís even rated PG-13, which in itself is wholly unnecessary since there isnít a bit of gore or even swearing. And the fact that the structure of the movieís been based on Outbreak Ė a far superior film Ė doesnít help.

But Williams is as good as usual (far better than the film deserves) and the movie never becomes the exploitative gorefest youíd expect. In fact, aside from a few questionable action sequences (usually involving army helicopters), the film remains surprisingly plausible all the way through. If you can accept that idea that the government would sanction the creation of mutant snakes to combat Saddam Hussein, the rest of the movie will be easier to swallow than a glass of Ovaltine.

Venomous marks the latest nail in the coffin that is Treat Williamsí career. Somebody get this guy a part in an actual movie, and fast!

Audio: Venomous is presented with a DD 5.1 soundtrack, and on the whole, itís not bad. Though much of the film is just dialogue, keeping the sound squarely in the front end, the movie does occasionally contain some spatial effects and the track does a good job of representing those. While itís not even close to the polished sound of a big-budget action film, for something like this, on such a small scale, itís effective.

Video: On the other hand, this 1.85:1 non-anamorphic transfer is rather lousy. For one thing, whatís up with it not being anamorphic? Those should be outlawed at this point. And for another, while daylight scenes are acceptable, darker scenes are quite grainy and rife with artifacts. Pretty poor, but the movie didnít really warrant anything better.

Extras: The primary extra here is a commentary track with director Ed Raymond (who is really cult film director Fred Olan Ray). This is a surprisingly entertaining track, with Ray completely aware of how stupid this film is. In fact, on several occasions, he points out silly happenings on screen. And besides that, he does offer up a lot of interesting tidbits Ė for example, the hospital sequences were shot in the same place the hit sitcom Scrubs now shoots at! A solid commentary. Rounding out the disc are some filmographies and a trailer.

Conclusion: Skip Venomous and rent the far, far (FAR) superior Outbreak.


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