‘Kamandag ni Venus’ Review: An achievement in awfulness

Zig Marasigan

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'Kamandag' is hard to recommend, but carries with it a quality that defies conventional criticism

AWFUL. Zig Marasigan says the movie is so "substandard" and poorly edited that its level of awfulness is an achievement of its own. Screengrab from YouTube

MANILA, Philippines – By any measure of quality, Kamandag ni Venus is not a good film.

It is not well edited or well-written, and it’s so dismally produced that to liken it to a student production would be an insult to many actual student productions. But despite these seemingly toxic condemnations, Kamandag ni Venus appeals on a level that transcends conventional scrutiny.

Put bluntly, Kamandag ni Venus is so bad, so wondrously substandard, so alarmingly shoddy, that its level of awfulness is an achievement on its own.

The obvious lack of production value makes Kamandag ni Venus look like an amateur B-movie. But it is the film’s ridiculous and nearly incoherent story that cements its place in the dregs of Philippine cinema.

Venus (Rajah Montero) is a family-loving girl-next-door, but when a group of neighborhood thugs rape and kill the supposedly innocent Venus, she is resurrected as a half-woman, half-snake creature by the snake man Valentin (Rob Sy). With her newfound powers, Venus dispenses vengeance on those who left her to die.

It’s a straightforward story that benefits from the simplicity of its premise – but what makes Kamandag ni Venus so shockingly obtuse is that the film is neither straightforward or simple. What could’ve easily been a 20-minute setup is run ragged as a full 90-minute feature. 

Venus’ rape scene doesn’t happen until an hour into the film, and even then, the gravity of the sequence is sucked right out of it when Venus is discovered by an old man wearing nothing but adult diapers.

While it is supposedly the job of film critics to guide audiences away from such drivel, it’s hard to discount the kind of trainwreck amusement derived from experiencing Kamandag ni Venus. It is dreadful and outright appalling. But it is also this maddening mix of awful that makes part of its limited appeal. 

An accidental comedy

Scantly marketed as a horror-suspense film, Kamandag ni Venus delivers on neither of its genres. Instead, the mix of tacky costume design and hammy performances provide more humor than actual tension.

Although the films more prominent characters are relative unknowns, audiences will find familiar faces in Sharmaine Arnaiz and Jao Mapa. But regardless of the film, Kamandag ni Venus is so badly acted that what might’ve been a mediocre horror film ends up being a unexpectedly amusing comedy.

Directed by Dyzal Dalum (who has also been credited as Zaldy Dalum), Kamandag ni Venus draws its inspiration from the works of Jim Fernandez, whose most notable characters include Zuma, a half-snake and half-human demigod. But outside of the film’s snake-human hybrids, Kamandag ni Venus has no discernible connection to Fernandez’s work. It was as if the film’s producers decided to ride the short-lived popularity of ABS-CBN’s Galema: Anak ni Zuma, but instead, misfired their film into a cesspool of cheap knock-offs.

The lack of production value is so distinctly absolute that the film itself seems uncharacteristically indifferent to the commercial standards of local filmmaking. While other bad films aim to be at least passable, Kamandag ni Venus seems to find pride in being absolutely dreadful.

A good example of a bad example

While other bad films at least scrape the bottom layer of mediocrity, Kamandag ni Venus seems determined to hit rock bottom and stay there. Entire sequences of dialogue are made inaudible because of the incessant crowing of roosters. Characters jump in and around their scenes because of a lack of continuity. But while there’s a masochistic appeal to the film’s consistent lack of quality, it is the film’s utter lack of pretention that makes it so hypnotically watchable.

In the film’s closing credits, comedic outtakes are projected alongside a rolling roster of the production staff. While movie bloopers are a common custom at the end of a film, it’s a rather disconcerting practice in should’ve been a horror movie. But since the rest of the film is so unabashedly ridiculous, it’s only fitting that the film be punctuated by even more unabashed ridiculousness.

Make no mistake; Kamandag ni Venus is hard to recommend, and oftentimes difficult to watch. But like all good-bad cinema, Kamandag ni Venus carries with it a quality that defies conventional criticism.

It manages to strike that rare note where a lot of bad can end up with a single, yet resounding, speck of good. But while the film is admittedly novel, it should never, ever, be used as a good example. – Rappler.com

Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.



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