I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but there are few things I’m more ashamed of than a case of blogging hubris. It was October 2018, the week leading up to two major film releases: the latest remake of A Star Is Born, and Venom. Like the rest of the Ringer staff, my attention was squarely on Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine—he of the gravelly voice, surprisingly rad rock ballads, and dank memes—falling off the deep end with some up-and-coming actress named Lady Gaga. The fact that I even had to acknowledge a superhero movie tangentially related to Spider-Man felt like a massive waste of time.
But by going into Venom with a dismissive attitude and zero expectations, I fell right into its trap and was exposed as a LOSER. While the trailers sold the movie as a generic superhero origin story, Venom was actually the world’s strangest romantic comedy, centered on a meet-cute (?) between a sweaty journalist and the alien parasite living inside of him who has an insatiable craving for human flesh, tater tots, and chocolate. Whether or not the film was in on the joke—that seemed to vary from scene to scene—in the hands of Hollywood’s resident oddball Tom Hardy, Venom was flat-out hilarious. (And honestly? Pretty erotic, too; more on that later.)
Over the course of just 48 hours, I was prepared to forsake Jackson Maine because, much like Tom Hardy’s twitchy protagonist, I couldn’t get Venom out of my head. (The love affair has been going strong ever since.) Now, with Venom’s long-delayed sequel, Let There Be Carnage, finally arriving in theaters on Friday, there’s no better time to catalog all of the eccentricities that helped turn the original movie into an instant so-bad-it’s-good classic. From lobster tanks and investigative journalism to Woody Harrelson’s clown wig, this is the Venom Power Ranking.
32. Jenny Slate
What did Jenny Slate ever do to Sony Pictures? It’s not that this underrated actress shouldn’t be in Venom, but her character, Dora Skirth (side note: WTF is this name?), might be the dumbest person to ever receive a PhD. Her entire character arc is coming to the realization that Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the tech-bro CEO running dangerous experiments on homeless people—something she’s known about for months, if not years—might not be a good dude. You think? Then, armed with this sensitive information, she brings it to … a disgraced journalist who can’t even get a job at a publication writing under a fake byline. Then she haphazardly helps him break into her company’s underground lab.
If that’s not bad enough, when Skirth is inevitably caught and confronted by Drake—a person who has no qualms torturing innocent test subjects—she doesn’t find it suspicious that he wants to meet in a room housing a symbiote:
Jenny Slate deserved better, but Dora Skirth has nobody to blame but herself.
31. Eminem’s “Venom”
Just when you think Venom doesn’t have any more surprises in store, Eminem starts rapping an eponymous theme song during the end credits, one that implies he might be infected with an alien parasite. Here are some choice lyrics:
I said knock knock, let the devil in
Alien, E-E-Elliott phone home
Ain’t no telling when this choke hold
On this game will end, I’m loco
Became a symbiote, so
My fangs are in your throat, ho
You’re snakebitten with my—venom
Beyond being a nickname, is Slim Shady actually the identity of the symbiote that’s secretly inhabited Eminem’s body for decades? It’s hard to say for sure, because “Venom” is so cringey that I’ve never sat through the whole track, and it’s possible that nobody ever will.
30. Carlton Drake
There was never a world where Venom got outshined by the villain in his own movie, but like Slate’s scientist, Riz Ahmed was done dirty. In making Carlton Drake an amalgam of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk (in the film’s climax he takes off in his own company’s spaceship), the film didn’t bother to give the character any semblance of a personality. While that might’ve been a commentary on the soulless nature of tech companies—a very generous reading of a movie called Venom—it’s an awkward fit whenever Ahmed has to share the screen with Tom Hardy Doing the Absolute Most. For a better example of Ahmed’s superlative acting skills, watch him in literally anything else. (But seriously, he’s so good in The Sound of Metal.)
29. Human Testing
Although Drake’s company is called the Life Foundation, it certainly doesn’t value the lives of vulnerable individuals. After the company captures a few symbiote samples in the (vaguely explained) far reaches of space, Drake doesn’t hesitate to find out what happens when they invade a human host—enlisting some of San Francisco’s houseless population for these experiments. The results aren’t pretty, and it’s one of the few moments in this otherwise silly film when Venom is somewhat unnerving:
Yes, this is from the same movie in which Eddie Brock rummages through the fridge to eat a bag of frozen tater tots.
28. International Travel
During Venom’s opening sequence, one of the symbiote samples collected by the Life Foundation escapes containment when their spaceship crashes in Malaysia, hitching a ride with an astronaut’s corpse before taking over a local paramedic. Venom does a few check-ins with this symbiote—it also inhabits a frail old lady and a little girl—which is determined to reach the Life Foundation’s San Francisco headquarters and break the rest of the symbiotes free. But between these check-ins, during which Eddie loses his job and his fiancée, there’s a six-month time jump. Now, there’s no denying that Malaysia to San Francisco is a long journey, but would it really take six whole months?!
Perhaps there’s a deleted scene in which the symbiote gets really frustrated applying for a Malaysian passport, but the film doesn’t bother to explain why it doesn’t board a plane to San Fran until after half a year has passed. In fairness to the symbiote, I have a pretty bad sense of direction and I’m native to this planet. Still, you’d think an alien life-form hell bent on taking over Earth wouldn’t be intimidated by the TSA.
As for the aforementioned symbiote with a bad internal compass: His name is Riot. And when Riot finally makes it to San Francisco, he bonds with Carlton Drake and exposes his true form in an interrogation scene. I’ll let Eddie take it from here:
26. The Action Scenes
In a lot of superhero movies, the action scenes are what the fans write home about: Bane beating the ever-living shit out of Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, Spider-Man fighting Doc Ock through Manhattan in Spider-Man 2, the Avengers assembling in Endgame, and so on. If there’s one glaring issue with Venom, it’s that the final battle between Venom and Riot (and their human hosts) looks like a half-assed H.R. Giger sketch:
[Extreme Eddie Brock voice, which also happens to sound like Sammy Davis Jr.]: That is the ugliest-looking thing I have ever seen.
25. The Noisy Neighbor
When Eddie and his fiancée Anne Weying (played incredibly, by four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams) break up, my guy hits rock bottom. He’s struggling to find work and moves into a new apartment in what’s supposed to be a skeezy part of town. (While I don’t know much about San Francisco, I do know that it’s a ridiculously expensive city to live in, making the fact that Eddie doesn’t live in a glorified closet one of the most unrealistic aspects of a movie about an alien parasite becoming best friends with a human being.) But worst of all: His next door neighbor absolutely sucks.
The neighbor is never given a name, but we’re introduced to him after he escorts a woman out of his apartment by slapping her on the butt. “What a dick,” Eddie mutters to himself after he passes the scene, speaking for all of us. The neighbor’s shittiness doesn’t stop there: When Eddie is trying to meditate and pull his focus away from all the overdue bills stacking up on his table, the neighbor starts (poorly and very loudly) shredding on his electric guitar. As someone who’s also had terrible living situations in an expensive city, I sympathize with Eddie making this expression, which suggests he’s either transforming into the Incredible Hulk or is painfully constipated. Possibly both:
24. The Stan Lee Cameo
Venom might not take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—for now?—but it’s a Marvel project all the same. And so the late Stan Lee makes his customary cameo at the end of the film, passing Eddie on the street. The most memorable part of their exchange technically happens in Eddie’s head, as Venom admires Stan Lee’s dog with ravenous intrigue:
Rest assured, PETA: The dog was fine.
23. Mister Belvedere
Venom is not a normal movie; ergo, even Anne’s cat has an unnecessarily silly name. Folks, this is Mister Belvedere:
Mister Belvedere is mentioned in several scenes, to the extent that I assumed he would somehow factor into the plot. Alas, Mister Belvedere only teases us with his beautiful coat and sassy expression—which is probably for the best because I can totally picture Venom convincing Eddie that he would make for a tasty snack.
22. Motorcycle Safety
Eddie Brock isn’t just a motorcycle owner; he’s the kind of guy who makes owning a motorcycle a big part of his personality. (Before they break up, Anne “jokes” that she’s going to be wearing a motorcycle helmet to their wedding, and there’s a 70 percent chance it would’ve really happened.) Whether Eddie is secretly one of the aliens from I Think You Should Leave’s motorcycle sketch is a mystery that will have to wait for the sequel—in the meantime, at least the motorcycle was put to good use in one of Venom’s action sequences.
With Drake’s goons in pursuit, Eddie tears through the streets of San Francisco as Venom uses his gooey limbs to help his host through some sticky (no pun intended) situations. But when Eddie takes a moment to admire Venom’s chaotic artistry, he gets completely owned by one of Drake’s approaching SUVs:
With this gnarly wipeout, Venom delivers an important PSA: Even when your body is being hijacked by a powerful alien life-form, always remember to wear a helmet.
21. Venom, Having a Quiet Moment of Reflection
Eddie wants to leave evidence of Drake’s horrific human trials at the media company where he used to work, but runs into a snag when the security guard doesn’t let him into the building. (Venom offers to eat the guard, much to Eddie’s dismay.) Instead, Venom scales the skyscraper, and, for a brief moment, overlooks the city skyline like he’s Batman. He then delivers a line of dialogue that almost—almost—wouldn’t feel out of place in a Terrence Malick film:
Less than five minutes after this, Venom calls Eddie a pussy for refusing to jump off the building. This movie is perfect.
20. Symbiotes As Suppositories
The idea of having a hostile alien organism inside your body is terrifying in and of itself, but Eddie makes the notion of a human-symbiote pairing even more unsettling than I could possibly imagine. When he finds out that Drake’s body has been taken over by Riot, he conjures the unforgettable imagery of the symbiote bonding functioning like a suppository:
To be clear: Nothing in the movie actually suggests that Venom enters Eddie’s body rectally. But I guess symbiotes-as-suppositories are the thinking man’s Ant-Man expanding inside Thanos’s butt.
19. Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams’s Sexual Chemistry
At the start of Venom, the audience is supposed to believe that Eddie and Anne are madly in love and on the verge of getting married. There’s just one problem: Hardy and Williams don’t have an ounce of sexual chemistry. They give off a vibe that’s closer to two roommates who only converse when they both go to the fridge for a snack at the same time. Even their ostensibly flirty pillow fights feel platonic:
At least we’ll always have Anne’s desktop background. I’ve never seen Tom Hardy this happy in a movie?
18. Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy’s Sexual Chemistry
Of course, the reason that Eddie and Anne’s lack of chemistry isn’t a huge setback for Venom is the fact that: 1. They break up early in the film, and 2. an alien has the hots for our guy. With a screenplay cowritten by Kelly Marcel, who penned the Fifty Shades of Grey adaptation, the movie transforms into the erotic tale of a dom from outer space and his sweaty human sub:
Before anyone suggests I’m reading too much into Eddie and Venom’s sadomasochistic love affair, Sony Pictures made a rom-com parody trailer for the movie’s digital release, and Let There Be Carnage director Andy Serkis has suggested the two are basically a couple. In essence, this means that Hardy, who voices Venom, is seducing himself on screen.
17. Venom As an Expert of Human Relationships
Despite Eddie having a serious spark with Venom, he still spends most of the movie hung up on Anne. Unfortunately, he can’t even mourn the end of their relationship in his head without his new boyfriend—er, alien parasite—chiming in:
If the whole superhero thing doesn’t work out, Venom could always try being a therapist.
16. Venom As Eddie’s Hype Man
Ever the dutiful friend (with benefits), Venom doesn’t just rub Eddie’s failures in his face. When grabbing coffee with Anne at the end of the film, Venom gives his human host some motivation:
Sorry to be that guy, but if Eddie and Anne did hook up, and Venom was inside of him, does that technically count as a threesome? One sec, I think the FBI is knocking on my door.
15. Mrs. Chen
After Eddie moves out of Anne’s apartment, he appears to only visit one place in his new neighborhood: a convenience store operated by a woman named Mrs. Chen. Mrs. Chen is the only person in Venom who has a normal reaction to Eddie twitching and mumbling his way through the entire movie:
At the same time, Mrs. Chen is, inexplicably, super chill about this same person transforming into an alien, devouring a local goon threatening her for protection money, and waving it off by saying “I have a parasite.” In the first trailer for Let There Be Carnage, she separately greets Eddie and Venom when they enter her store—and the symbiote responds by waving at Mrs. Chen through his host’s back. The budding friendship between Mrs. Chen and Eddie (and Venom) is one of the most pleasant surprises of this gloriously stupid franchise.
14. Eddie’s Social Skills
Another reason why I believe Eddie Brock is secretly one of the aliens from I Think You Should Leave’s motorcycle sketch: He doesn’t know how to communicate like a regular human being. The first time he enters Mrs. Chen’s store and she asks him how he’s doing, Eddie responds by saying, “Aches and pains, aches and pains, you know?” which—no, we don’t know? Who the hell says that?
Then when Dr. Skirth confirms to him that there are other life-forms in the universe, Eddie tries to imitate E.T.:
Somehow, this is the same character who is the star of The Eddie Brock Report, a popular investigative series that requires him to talk with other people.
13. Woody Harrelson (and His Wig)
Since Venom is a superhero movie, a mid-credits scene teasing what’s next in the pipeline was merely a formality. But since Venom is also, like, the weirdest superhero movie ever made, even its bonus footage feels like opening Pandora’s box. You see, now that Eddie is back to working as an investigative journalist, an incarcerated serial killer requests to be interviewed by him. (The FBI hopes the killer will reveal where more of his victims are buried, so they encourage the meetup.) The biggest takeaway from the scene should’ve been that the killer, Cletus Kasady, is the character from the comics who infamously serves as the human host for the villainous symbiote Carnage. But instead, all we could focus on was Woody Harrelson and his Evil Ronald McDonald hairdo:
The hair is an inspired choice—hilarious, terrible, emblematic of why Venom is humanity’s greatest achievement—and made the wait for a sequel all the more excruciating. But Cletus has a new, less hideous haircut in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which is an absolute travesty and a failure of marketing. We were, after all, promised “carnage,” and I can’t think of a better descriptor for that iconic clown wig.
12. Venom Telling Eddie That They Aren’t So Different
One of the most enduring storytelling tropes is a character saying some variation of “We’re not so different, you and I.” In most instances, the line is a lazy attempt by an antagonist to justify their actions and prove that their motivations aren’t too dissimilar from that of the hero. (The line was also used in the first Austin Powers movie to intentionally make fun of its prevalence.) But we have to give Venom credit: I’m pretty sure this is the first time that the beaten-to-death line has been uttered by an alien parasite trying to seem more relatable to his human host:
I’d also like to point out that there are a lot of things they don’t have in common—namely, not even being from the same planet—but Venom would probably bite my head off for disagreeing with him, so let’s just let him have this one.
11. Dan, the World’s Nicest New Boyfriend
On the subject of storytelling tropes: When Anne moves on from Eddie, the expectation is that her new boyfriend is going to be a jerk so that the audience can root for our hero reuniting with the woman he loves. But while Anne and Eddie (and Venom) could still rekindle their relationship in the franchise, it won’t be because of Dan. As played by Reid Scott—best known as Dan from Veep, and who I guess is contractually obligated to play dudes named Dan for the rest of his career—Dan is a genuinely kind person. He’s supportive of Anne making amends with her ex after a nasty breakup, and he even confesses to being a fan of Eddie’s work as an investigative journalist taking down bad people. Against all odds, Dan might be my favorite non-symbiote character in the film?
10. Dan, the World’s Worst Doctor
Unfortunately, the same reasons that make Dan a great guy make him an alarmingly bad doctor. When something is clearly wrong with Eddie, who is sweating profusely, talking to himself, and generally doing absolutely bonkers shit in public, Dan reacts WAY TOO CALMLY, as if getting into a lobster tank and eating the lobsters in it is normal behavior for a slightly ill person. Dan isn’t even fazed when Eddie briefly contemplates what it would be like to devour his face.
Later, when Dan brings Eddie in for an MRI and the machine causes Eddie to violently convulse because it’s harmful to Venom, Dan shrugs it off as a patient having a fear of claustrophobic spaces. Does this look like claustrophobia?!
The next time Dan tries to ask Eddie some medical questions outside of the hospital, he should just say “I think that’s HIPAA” and change the subject.
Symbiotes require a host to survive in Earth’s atmosphere, but the hosts don’t necessarily have to be a human. After Eddie and Venom get into their first big fight as a couple, the two are physically separated with the help of the MRI machine. Not long after, Eddie is apprehended by Drake’s goons, who assume the symbiote is still inside of him. (Or, as Eddie would say, up his ass.) Meanwhile, Venom must make due with what he can find in the hospital—and while he does eventually set his sights on Anne, he first takes over something a little, uh, smaller:
There is perhaps no greater moment of dramatic tension in Michelle Williams’s storied career than her stare-down with my aunt’s dog.
While Anne’s symbiote transformation is a nod to the character’s comic book history as “She-Venom,” the moment truly resonates because the film fully embraces the horny dynamic between Eddie and Venom. Despite establishing that symbiotes can transfer between hosts from mere touch, Venom decides to passionately make out with Eddie to seal the deal:
And before anyone suggests that the sexy smooch was his ex’s doing, near the end of the movie, Anne straight-up says the kiss was Venom’s idea. At this rate, maybe Venom really is “coming out” in Let There Be Carnage.
7. Anne Being Sorry About Venom
It would be an understatement to say that Eddie and Anne don’t have a normal relationship as exes. Some former couples drift apart; others try to maintain a friendship; these two share the unique bond of having been possessed by an alien parasite that made them chomp the heads off bad guys. Which is why Anne talking about Venom in such blasé terms induces the biggest tonal whiplash of the film:
I genuinely hope Michelle Williams is being paid as much as Tom Cruise or Dwayne Johnson for this sensational performance.
6. Investigative Journalism
My favorite TV show is The Eddie Brock Report. It’s got everything a viewer could ever want: hard-hitting investigative journalism, Tom Hardy rolling through the streets of San Francisco on his badass motorcycle, and whatever the hell you want to call this editing technique:
Yet despite having a locally (nationally?) syndicated series for his journalistic exploits, Eddie is terrible at his job. Like any rational person who has spent two minutes with Carlton Drake, Eddie knows he’s a bad dude. But instead of taking him down with dogged reporting, Eddie sneaks onto Anne’s laptop (her employer works for the Life Foundation) and then accuses Drake of performing inhumane experiments on the houseless without offering up any evidence. This is, no joke, how Eddie tries to defend himself to his employer:
The Eddie Brock Report is dead—and a nation mourns its fallen, idiotic hero.
5. Literal Shit-Talking
Venom doesn’t really need to say anything to be intimidating; he is, after all, a giant alien with razor-sharp teeth who primarily subsists on human flesh. Nevertheless, he threatens the local thug harassing Mrs. Chen by describing how he’s going to rip off all his limbs and his head so that his torso is—well, I’ll let Venom take it from here:
Why does Venom say this like it’s a normal turn of phrase? Wouldn’t it take a lot of wind to make a turd roll? Why can’t I get the imagery of a turd rolling in the wind out of my head? Do I have a symbiote inside of me?
4. Eddie Getting the Munchies
When Venom first latches onto Eddie, he doesn’t understand what’s happening to him. (At this point, Venom has yet to announce himself in all-caps within his head.) What he does know is that he’s absolutely starving, and his urges can only be sated by [squints] a frozen bag of tater tots and a half-eaten chicken from the garbage:
It’s in this brief moment that Venom straddles the line between slapstick comedy and a Cronenbergian nightmare. On a somewhat related note: Venom is a very strange movie to sit through on an empty stomach.
3. Venom Calling Eddie a Loser
The first time that Venom reveals himself to Eddie, the film leans into just how freaky such an encounter would be: A person is forced to submit to the will of a hostile alien species hijacking their body. Venom’s invasive nature is such that he says he can essentially hear Eddie’s thoughts, which is why he delivers this immortal line:
If there were any lingering doubts about what type of tone Venom would settle on, its title character telling his human host that he sucks cemented the movie as the most bizarre comedy of 2018.
2. Venom Admitting That He, Too, Is a Loser
Of course, the reason that Eddie is such a perfect host for Venom is because they’re kindred spirits. While the symbiotes originally came to Earth with the intent of taking over the planet, Venom has a change of heart under extremely relatable circumstances:
Basically, billions of people were spared an unimaginably gruesome fate because an alien has self-esteem issues. (I reiterate: This is a perfect movie.) Venom later admits that he also wanted to save the world because of Eddie—and if that isn’t a sign of true love, then I don’t know what is.
1. The Lobster Tank
Could it be anything else? In just two minutes, Venom crafts a scene more memorable than anything from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it boils down to Tom Hardy coming up with a ridiculous idea to improvise on the set of the film. Still confused by what’s happening to his body—and a booming voice in his head suddenly shouting “FOOD!”—Eddie confronts Anne and Dan during their lunch at a fancy restaurant before the ravenous hunger takes over his body. He grabs a lobster off a waiter’s tray, declares it “DEAD!” (I mean, no shit?), and starts rummaging through the plates of the clientele like a truffle pig on cocaine.
Eddie is also sweating like a marathon runner, so naturally, he decides to cool down by jumping in the restaurant’s tastefully presented lobster tank—which, conveniently, just so happens to house the one thing that can satisfy his intense cravings:
This is not hyperbole: I have never laughed harder in a theater. The lobster tank sequence embodies everything that made Venom such a unique moviegoing experience: a big-budget blockbuster that followed the lead of its unhinged star and descended into complete, unapologetic absurdity. As long as Let There Be Carnage embraces the chaotic energy of the legendary lobster tank, then we’ve got a special superhero franchise on our hands. And anyone who disagrees is a LOSER.