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When mutant rattlesnakes are freed by an earthquake from an underground cellar, they attack a small desert community, causing a number of rapid, inexplicable deaths. Only Dr. David Henning (Treat Williams) seems to be on top of it, notifying his soon-to-be ex-wife Dr. Christine Edmonton (Mary Page Keller), who works for a cinematic variant of the CDC that's run by Army bureaucrats who can't give straight answers. And when the top brass of this faux-CDC realize that these rattlesnakes were created from an earlier government experiment, they quickly close up the town and plan to blow it to smithereens. Only David and Christine have the three-digit IQs required to come up with a vaccine to stop both the deadly snakes and government busybodies. If you've never heard of Venomous, that's because it comes from the land of straight-to-video movies, where director Fred Olen Ray (working under the pseudonym Ed Raymond) has built himself a cottage industry based on foreign and video sales. His oeuvre is populated by films that usually are rip-offs of big-budget fare (here the obvious paradigm is Outbreak) featuring washed-up stars (here, alas, the obviously talented Treat Williams), and the best explosions and stock footage a low budget can buy. On those terms Venomous isn't as satisfying as a film like Plan 9 From Outer Space, because it never becomes absurdly awful, just uninterestingly bad. That said, there are moments — a snake in a Hitchcockian shower is one of the more laughably staged Psycho nods. But the best is when a snakebite victim's brother comes into the hospital, armed and planning to take back his kin. When the government finds out, they send a 'copter after the two, only to have the brother stop, pull a rocket launcher out of his trunk, and blow away said pursuing chopper. Unfortunately, he didn't count on a second chopper, which promptly shoots them both dead. Sadly, moments of this quality are rare. Fox's DVD presents Venomous in letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1) with DD 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Extras include a commentary by Ray, cast and crew bios, and a trailer. Keep-case.

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