Film

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is another missed opportunity for a superhero-horror crossover

Venom is a bloody horror movie waiting to happen and that market has barely been tapped since Wesley Snipes originated the role of Blade, writes Hanna Flint.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage lacks bite. Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Venom: Let There Be Carnage lacks bite. Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

To say I was disappointed after seeing the first Venom movie in 2018 would be an understatement. As a kid who had spent Saturday mornings watching Spider-Man: The Animated Series in slight fear of the symbiote character, I was expecting to witness something far more disturbing than what Sony had to offer.

And why shouldn’t I? Everything about the character reeks of horror: a murderous, parasitic alien that relies on a biological host for survival, feeds off that person’s body as well as human brains and has a gnarly set of teeth to put Pennywise to shame? Venom is savage! He bites off people’s heads!

Even in Tom Hardy’s antihero iteration – one inspired by the ‘Lethal Protector’ comic storylines rather than his long history of villainy as Peter Parker’s nemesis – he still makes some morally questionable choices that lead to extremely bloody and violent circumstances even if they are in the service of good.

But, alas, thanks to the 12A rating and Hardy’s odd couple interpretation of the Eddie Brock-Symbiote dichotomy, that film never felt as sinister or bloody as it could have truly been.

Now with Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Hardy, who has now earned a ‘story by’ credit with screenwriter Kelly Marcel, has doubled down on this light, comedic sensibility even with its serial killer antagonist Cletus Kasady raising the stakes and the body count.

Woody Harrelson oozes deranged swagger as this psychopathic antagonist who, after getting his own symbiote and joining up with childhood sweetheart Shriek (Naomie Harris), goes on a rampage to dish out, well, carnage.

Who wouldn’t be reminded of Natural Born Killers when viewing this terrible twosome? Mickey Knox is one of Harrelson’s most iconic characters but again, his killing spree as well as the overall tone feels overly sanitised to cater to a child audience. It’s just not as scary or nervy as it could have been.

Sure, it’s a bit weirder than the usual vigilante fare being dished out but in trying to appeal to the widest audience possible, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe does, the franchise has missed an opportunity to establish itself as a frightening superhero-horror crossover.

We have an oversaturation of comic-book movies at the moment and even as a die-hard fan of the genre, I’m desperate for some new adult-focused offerings that follow the Logan or Deadpool school of thought.

The brutal, bloody violence Hugh Jackman dishes out in his 2017 solo film finally allowed Wolverine to let rip and let audiences really witness the bloody consequences of getting on the wrong side of his, and X-23’s, adamantium claws.

Deadpool certainly has more in common with Venom when it comes to its eccentric lead but at least that franchise doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to showing the profane and gory detail of death by katanas, knives, grenades, guns or whatever Wade Wilson happens to be wielding.

Venom is a bloody horror movie waiting to happen and that market has barely been tapped since Wesley Snipes originated the role of Blade in his essential 18-certificate vampire franchise.

The New Mutants is the closest we’ve got to a fright-fest with its Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Stephen King influences.

I very much appreciated director Josh Boone’s swing into darker, more surreal terror-tory of this X-Men spin-off, even if my critical peers didn’t think he pulled it off.

But now with Mahershala Ali picking up Blade’s sword, a casting I predicted in 2018 (!), I’m anxious MCU overlord Kevin Feige is going to simply strip the extremely bloody horror so it can be subsumed into the kiddy-friendly, identikit web narrative of the MCU. Have you noticed that there is barely any blood depicted from wounds in the Infinity Saga despite the monumental amount of killing that goes on at the hands of these superheroes and villains?

Look, Kevin. I’m not saying you’ve got to produce a blood rave but you cannot seriously deliver a vampire movie with this character without an unhealthy dose of red flowing and the censors sure ain’t going to allow that to be on display in a 12A.

I understand that all these studios are relying on the universal availability of their movies to secure as much bang for their buck as possible. But if we want to avoid superhero fatigue, we need to cater to different sensibilities and age groups.

An adult focus certainly didn’t hurt Logan, Deadpool and Blade’s box office returns so, you know, grow up, already!

Venom: Let There be Carnage is in UK cinemas from October 15
@HannaFlint

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