Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) is here for a good time, not a long time.
Can VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE be considered a horror movie? I mean, it’s about a serial killer on death row who gets possessed by an alien symbiote and goes on a mad rampage, so I’m thinking horror-wise, it’s a slam dunk. Okay, yeah it’s also a Marvel superhero movie – although not a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie (or is it?) – and a (romantic?) comedy but then if, say, ARMY OF DARKNESS can be a horror movie, so can this.
In 1996, while an inmate of the Ravencroft Institute, Cletus Kasaday (Woody Harrelson) befriends and fall in love with Frances Barrison (Naomie Harris) before the two are separated due to Frances’ growing powers. Flash forward to the present day and Cletus Kasaday is sentenced to death by lethal injection thanks in part to the reporting of his life story by Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy). But when Cletus gets a taste of the Venom symbiote, Carnage is unleashed.
Despite its darker subject matter, VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE strikes a dramatically different tone from its over-earnest predecessor. Gone is the pretension of making a serious super-hero movie and in its place, director Andy Serkis and writer Kelly Marcel (from a story from her and Tom Hardy) fashion a bright and breezily brutal whirlwind horror adventure that delivers everything you could want in, if not a tight ninety minutes then let’s say an untidy ninety.
Tom Hardy seems to be having more fun this time and lets go of the self-consciousness which held him back last time out. Venom is reinvented as a one-man odd couple, a deliriously high concept sitcom that could easily have filled the run time without the need for an adversary or two thrown into the mix. In keeping with its sitcom stylings, the principal cast is fairly small for this kind of movie: Hardy as Brock/ Venom, Michelle Williams and Reid Scott returning as Anne and Doctor Dan respectively with Peggy Lu as Mrs Chen, rounding out the sitcom staples. Of course, Woody Harrelson also reprises the role of Cletus Kasady briefly teased in the post-credits scene of 2018’s VENOM and to round out the rest of the newcomers, Andy Serkis seems to have raided his own address book, casting fellow british thesps Naomie Harris as Shriek, the in-demand Stephen Graham as Detective Mulligan and even LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN alum Reece Shearsmith as a priest.
The unholy symbiosis between a Sitcom and superhero horror is an inspired mix and while VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE still has many of the flaws which permeated the first movie, there’s a gleeful sense of mischievous nonchalance about the whole thing that’s pretty irresistible. It not only knows it’s ridiculous, it doesn’t care. The movie’s here for a good time, not a long time and that’s a-okay with me. Tom Hardy is flat-out hilarious in the dual role of long-suffering Eddie Brock and his acid-tongued symbiote Venom and while it doesn’t skimp on the violence, there’s plenty of fun – and funny – moments. VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE may not be a great movie, but it’s a pretty good time and maybe that’s all we need from the VENOM franchise.