Spider-Man villain Venom stars in gritty (unofficial) short film

Heroes, meet horror.

True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten takes on the role of iconic Marvel villain Venom in the new guerrilla-style short film Truth in Journalism, directed by Knights of Badassdom filmmaker Joe Lynch.

It’s too professional to call a “fan film” but it’s definitely unofficial. Imagine The Blair Witch Project fused with a supervillain story. The gritty black-and-white tale is presented as found footage of a journalist-turned-vigilante who wants a documentary crew to immortalize his crimes achievements.

The roughly 16-minute short was produced by Adi Shankar, whose credits include the big-screen films The Grey, Killing Them Softly, and the comic-book adaptation of Dredd starring Karl Urban. Last year, he produced another rogue short, Dirty Laundry, based on the Marvel character The Punisher, starring Thomas Jane (who played the character in the 2004 feature film.)

Truth in Journalism includes a lot of coded references for those familiar with the origin of Venom, the shadowy, multi-fanged, slobbering monster-villain of the Spider-Man world.

In the Marvel Comics, Eddie Brock was a overeager journalist covering the serial killings of an unknown psychopath dubbed the Sin-Eater. When a character named Emil Gregg confessed to Brock that he was the murderer, Brock eventually published an expose outing his identity.

Gregg turned out to be a fraud, a habitual liar who was only confessing to get attention. Demented? Sure, but harmless. After Spider-Man caught the real Sin-Eater, Brock’s big scoop became a massive embarrassment that cost him his job, his reputation, his wife, and pretty much his entire life.

Seething with rage, Brock ended up fusing with the black-tar-like alien symbiote that, for a time, had bonded with the web-slinger, turning him jet black and giving him extra-terrestrial abilities. Thanks to his already-superhuman powers (courtesy of that radioactive-spider bite) Peter Parker had been able to keep the symbiote’s influence over his psyche in check.

Brock had no such control, and his already sketchy nature was dialed up to levels of psychotic rage after fusing with the organism.

All of this is hinted at in the short, which is set in the mid-to-late-’80s, similar to when this storyline was published by Marvel Comics. (Dig that swinging Miami Vice-era soundtrack. And the crew’s film-stock conundrum would have been easily solved by todays video-friendly smartphones.)

Lynch’s film borrows not just from the Marvel universe, but spoofs the disturbing 1992 Belgian crime faux-documentary Man Bites Dog, about a serial killer whose twisted spree is accompanied by a film crew. Everything from the crackling, black-and-white film stock to the Belgian filmmakers is represented in the Venom short. (Even the post-credit scene is a riff on a sequence from Man Bites Dog.)

It’s unlikely Sony Pictures would ever make a feature-length horror film about Venom, but now it at least exists in brief.

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