Trailer Park Thursday: “Venom” and “Slender Man”

Does anyone remember Voldo, the character from Soul Calibur? His lasting intimidation factor (and enduring appeal) isn’t just attributed to his literal capacity for violence, but rather, his eerie, bizarre body movements and vaguely fetishistic costuming—in other words, he isn’t just deadly, he’s straight-up creepy. Unnerving. Eldritch.

In the spirit of that not-so-vaguely unsettling villain, both of this week’s trailers feature villainous monsters that transcend mere lethality and brush against the realms of otherworldly body horror. Yes, nightmare fuel is on the menu this week, so why not top off your tank, so to speak? Take comfort that, with PG-13 ratings, there’s only so far either of these movies can take it. Let’s get weird:

Hailing the birth of yet another Marvel Universe, Venom joins a growing list of this year’s villains—and problematic protagonists—that reflect the present tension of our emergent future with increasing clarity. First, we had Upgrade, which explored human enhancement through AI implantation—is it just us, or do Grey’s (Logan Marshall-Green) conversations with STEM feel similar to Eddie Brock’s (Tom Hardy) with Venom? And let’s not forget about Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) from Ant-Man and the Wasp, the “quantumly unstable” hacker who also happens to be an anticapitalist saboteur of the Elon Musk-Esque technocracy, which is not super dissimilar to Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) and the Life Foundation from Venom. And now, as if continuing the thread that Boots Riley unfurled in Sorry to Bother You (and if you think that’s a spoiler, then you really just need to go see that movie), Venom is bringing transhumanism to the masses! For those of us who grew up watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, be forewarned that this Venom is no Jadzia Dax. Or Topher Grace, for that matter.

This is the third trailer to drop since the film’s teaser came out way back in early February. It’s great to see Riz Ahmed and Michelle Williams flexing their blockbuster chops, but where are Jenny Slate and Woody Harrelson this time around? While the first full-length trailer is more focused on the origin story of Eddie Brock/Venom, this seems all about showing off the goods. The disgusting, disgusting goods. If the Sam Raimi era of Spider-Man was proto-health-goth Venom, then this is…uh, the wet look.

Given that Venom director Ruben Fleischer cut his teeth on the darkly humorous Zombieland, we’re wondering if he’s going to give ol’ “Heartthrob Hardy” the full Jesse Eisenberg anti-hero treatment. Speaking of which, watching Tom Hardy inside that shiny, inexplicably moist, thick-tongued, freaky-deeky suit-thing is becoming increasingly akin to watching Bill Skarsgård in the Pennywise makeup. Even when he goes full milky-eye and calls some poor guy a turd in a convenience store, you just have to keep telling yourself, “there’s a really hot dude in there somewhere, there’s a really hot dude in there somewhere.” There’s plenty of time to practice that maxim before Venom comes to theaters on October 5.

Also from Sony Pictures and featuring an uncanny creature with a powerful thrall, Slender Man will be in theaters starting August 10—which is soon! Some might say too soon: After all, two twelve-year-old girls were convicted just as recently as February (and after the first trailer had been out for a month already, by the way) of attempted murder of their classmate in the Wisconsin “Slender Man stabbing” of 2014. Maybe the film’s timing will discourage copycat crimes?

The first Slender Man trailer is a much more impressionistic affair, mixing voiceover snippets from different characters’ perspectives with hysterical screaming, creepy children’s laughs, and purposefully mysterious montages of sinister imagery (much of it bathed in a very particular, sickly green color wash). It ends with a young, roughed-up-looking girl emerging into a clearing—a scenario that feels uncomfortably similar to the real Slender Man stabbing victim’s crawl to safety out of a forest and onto a public road.

By contrast, this new offering follows a group of three different girls, who stumble into Slender Man’s web while searching for clues to their friend’s disappearance. Significantly, their interest in the Slender Man comes from a desire to save her, whereas, in real life, two pre-teens brutally attacked their friend in his name. Perhaps this movie’s biggest challenge will not be to treat an actual tragedy with deference, but rather, to create a fiction that can match the intensity of the truth. As we like to say around these parts, there’s only one way to find out. Oh, and if you want to know more about how this meme became the catalyst for attempted murder, then don’t miss Beware the Slenderman, a documentary on the crime that is now available via multiple streaming sites.

Do you love previews? Join us every week as we chew through the newest ones, offering hot takes on cool coming attractions. In case you missed it, we just covered the trailers for “A Simple Favor” and “Galveston” and “Beautiful Boy” and “Boy Erased.” While you’re here, be sure to watch Fandor’s latest videos, covering “Drive,” self-help gurus in film, and Mario Bava.
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