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TIFF ’22 Review: ‘Venus’ is a two-for-one horror thriller

‘Venus’ blends a criminal pursuit following a robbery and a menacing presence

A scene from 'Venus'
A scene from 'Venus' courtesy of TIFF
A scene from 'Venus' courtesy of TIFF

‘Venus’ blends a criminal pursuit following a robbery and a menacing presence occupying an apartment building.

Sometimes a place or an act simply feels wrong. Whether it’s an innate instinct or some other unexplained phenomenon, you inherently know it’s not right and it will not turn out well if you don’t immediately stop or escape. Some people claim to feel a sense of dread before an accident. Or taking it as a sign when something doesn’t go to plan. Horror movies are often centred on not following those instincts. In Venus, a woman risks it all while her sister and niece try to get away from a sinister force that encompasses their apartment building.

Lucía (Ester Expósito) is a go-go dancer at a nightclub run by organized crime. One night she steals a duffel bag full of designer drugs, but she doesn’t make a clean getaway. Desperate for a place to hide, she goes to her sister’s apartment complex. But Rocío (Ángela Cremonte) and her daughter, Alba (Inés Fernández), have their own problems, and they’re in the midst of a quick getaway when Lucía shows up on their doorstep. Now the three of them are stuck together, at least for the night. But when morning comes, Rocío is gone, and Lucía is left alone to watch Alba and figure out how not to die at the hands of the angry drug dealers.

The narrative merges two separate stories that become linked via Lucía. Trying to walk away with that much drugs is some combination of brave and stupid. But the criminals looking for her are also looking for payback now, which makes her situation that much graver. They enlist the help of a seer who performs an unsavoury ritual, but she doesn’t see the whole truth. In the meantime, there is definitely something supernatural happening in the apartment building. In spite of no one living upstairs, nighttime brings unmistakable ruckus from above, accompanied by very disturbing nightmares. Moreover, Alba claims someone up there leaves her gifts that few would accept or cherish. Thus, an intense atmosphere is ever-present as they are seemingly in twice the danger.

While there are some twists viewers may see coming, the last act is non-stop, alarming action as everything comes to a head. All the villains are revealed, and Lucía is going to have to try to save herself and Alba from a barrage of threats. It will have audiences white-knuckled, on the edge of their seats as one horror begets another. Its grip on viewers is relentless, delivering a shocking, bloody and unsettling conclusion that will stick with people even after the lights go up.

Venus had its world premiere in the Midnight Madness programme at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Read other reviews from the festival.

Director: Jaume Balagueró
Starring: Ester Expósito, Ángela Cremonte and Inés Fernández

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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