As if Louisiana has not been through enough, according to "Venom" all the evil spirits captured by an elderly rural voodoo woman have inadvertently been unleashed. Assuming the form of snakes, they attack a mechanic (Rick Cramer), setting him off on a lethal rampage. Smartly directed by Jim Gillespie from a script by various hands, "Venom" is from Dimension Films and follows its stylish, energetic and darkly amusing horror movie tradition. As usual for Dimension, the film — shot largely on atmospheric locations in Louisiana — focuses on a group of teens, especially a resilient young woman (Agnes Bruckner) who's just landed a pre-med scholarship to Columbia University and is not about to let some tire-iron-wielding bayou monster spoil her plans without a fight.
An unappetizing view of 'Food'
Deborah Koons Garcia's detailed and intensely researched documentary, "The Future of Food," sounds the activist alarm in the direction of genetically modified foods and the large corporations behind them. Beginning with the "hero of its generation" — DDT — Garcia presents a meticulous history of the rise of pesticides and the power gained by the companies that produce them. Monsanto is positioned as the primary villain and bully, with its aggressive push into the seed business, litigious pursuit of small farmers and ties to the Bush administration and Environmental Protection Agency.
The densely informational film fails to open up the discussion on synthetic food but makes a strong case for its stance through interviews with scientists and "clean" food advocates. The disturbing lack of oversight governing the foods on supermarket shelves and the potential hazards of 21st century "pharming" is enough to curb anyone's appetite, although a counterrevolution has increased the popularity of local farmers markets and revenues from organic foods since 1990.
"The Future of Food," unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. At Laemmle's Monica 4-Plex, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9741.
Clever horror set at WeHo event
Paul Etheredge-Ouzts' imaginative and witty "HellBent" unleashes a serial slasher amid a WeHo Halloween carnival. Focusing on roommates Eddie (Dylan Fergus), Joey (Hank Harris), Chaz (Andrew Levitas) and Tobey (Matt Phillips), "HellBent" moves restlessly in and out of bars and into the streets thronged with costumed revelers, where lurking in the shadows is a bare-to-the-waist man wearing a metallic, horned mask and wielding a scythe. The result is a hard-charging horror movie with a clever gay twist.
"HellBent," Unrated. Violence, sensuality, language, some drugs. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. Exclusively at the Regent Showcase, 614 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 934-2944; Playhouse 7, 673 Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 844-6500; the Art Theater, 2025 E. 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 438-5435.
Nothing too deep in this 'Sky'
Carl T. Evans' tedious drama "Walking on the Sky" serves primarily as an acting exercise for its cast and a showcase for its primary location, a scenic Manhattan rooftop. Loosely modeled on "The Big Chill," the film brings together six friends to commiserate over their friend Josh's suicide and torment one another with angst. They decide to read his diary (aloud, front to back) over a very long day and night in the hope of determining why he offed himself. Flashbacks show Josh (Michael Knowles), an art dealer, to be the most well-adjusted of the bunch of thinly drawn archetypes — a devastated ex-girlfriend (Susan Misner), a prickly, buttoned-down businesswoman (Nicole Fonarow), her whipped husband (Chris Henry Coffey), a bitter, washed-up ballplayer (Randal Batinkoff), a sensitive veterinarian (Kristen Marie Holly) and an underachieving bad boy (Evans). There are no real connections established amid the forgettable dialogue, and it remains unclear how or why the group became friends in the first place or what continues to bind them together.
The diary is not particularly interesting or revelatory, and no one is imaginative enough to start at the end — not that it would have helped other than to mercifully shorten this movie.
"Walking on the Sky," unrated. Adult situations. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. At Laemmle's Fairfax, 7907 Beverly Blvd., (323) 655-4010; and Laemmle's One Colorado, 42 Miller Alley, Pasadena, (626) 744-1224.
CAPSULE MOVIE REVIEWS
'Venom,' 'The Future of Food,' 'Hellbent,' 'Walking on the Sky'
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