By the time Eddie Brock explains that he believes the alien symbiote he’s bonded with is literally “up [his] arse” when he’s not wearing it like a terrifying suit of armour, it’s impossible to deny that Sony made an effort to at least partially acknowledge the inherent raunchiness and sexual subtext of the movie’s source material.
While there’s nothing close to a sex scene to be found anywhere in Venom, there are a handful of moments infused with a decidedly sexual energy that feel kind of at odds with the movie’s bro-y, wish-fulfillment elements. That is, until you recall this is a movie about a man wearing a living latex monster suit that likes to eat people for pleasure.
What Venom lacks in any sort of explicit sex scenes it more than makes up for with an ever-present kind of carnality that both excites and terrifies Eddie Brock, as he gradually comes to understand just what the symbiote is and what it’s doing to his body and mind. Eddie doesn’t want to eat people, initially, but the symbiote—which is cannibalising their shared body from the inside out—causes him to have powerful cravings for flesh that drive him into the streets in search of something with a pulse to sink his teeth into.
It isn’t just that Eddie’s hungry, exactly; rather, he’s almost (bear with me) horny for meat in a way that disgusts him while at the same time titillating him whenever his resolve breaks down and he allows himself to indulge. Venom allows Eddie to tap into parts of himself that are dark and dangerous—animalistic to the point of being horrific, but at the same time, the experience of being bonded to the alien is ultimately a pleasurable one, something that Eddie’s loathe to admit to anyone, in part because no one else can really understand what it’s like.
But, there’s a scene late into Venom’s third act that briefly articulates and explores that idea by introducing a surprising spin on a character you wouldn’t expect to appear on-screen so early into the franchise. After the symbiote is successfully removed from Eddie’s body using an MRI machine and the human antihero is subsequently captured by the Life Foundation, the symbiote has to find a way to reunite with its host. Because the symbiotes are incapable of surviving in Earth’s atmosphere without a host from Earth, it’s forced to find someone it can temporarily link with and, after taking over a dog’s body for a few minutes, it comes face to face with Anne Weying, portrayed by Michelle Williams.
The scene shifts to the woods where Life Foundation goons are preparing to murder Eddie because they believe he’s still hiding the symbiote somewhere. Just as they’re about to finish him off, Anne, as She-Venom, steps onto the screen and makes quick work of the villains. A shocked Eddie is speechless as the female-presenting symbiote closes in on him, and just as he’s certain that she’s about to kill him, she yanks him up by the collar of his sweatshirt and forces her tongue into his mouth so the symbiote can transfer itself back into his body.
The entire moment is punctuated by a series of slithery, organic bodily noises as Anne reveals herself to be the symbioses’ temporary host, and the whole thing is made that much more stomach-turning when you consider that just seconds before, She-Venom ripped a man’s face off with her fangs. When I recently spoke with director Reuben Fleischer about She-Venom’s cameo, he explained that as unexpected as her appearance is, it’s meant to take audiences by surprise in order to bring a moment of levity to the movie at a point when it comes close to getting distressingly gruesome:
She-Venom’s just such a cool-looking character that we really thought it would be a nice moment for fans of the comics. When you hear the name Anne Weying, anyone familiar with the character knows that she eventually becomes She-Venom—and so, in crafting the story, we thought this would be the perfect moment to introduce her just, you know, as an Easter egg for fans.
She-Venom, though, isn’t the only symbiote that brings Venom’s simmering sexual energy to the fore. The film’s CGI-heavy climactic battle between Venom and the symbiote Riot finds the two creatures duking it out as they’re racing toward a massive rocket that’s just seconds away from blasting off into space for the symbiote homeworld. The lumbering hulks rip and tear at one another’s bodies as they’re running, exposing Eddie Brock and Carlton Drake’s bodies buried beneath layers of alien slime. Because of the franticness of their battle, the four beings repeatedly end up more or less swimming in an oily soup of symbiote essence that’s as beautiful as it is disgusting.
Imagine two of the biggest, burliest Turkish oil wrestlers you’ve ever seen ripping off one another’s clothing and then rolling around in a pool of each other’s bodily fluids. That’s more or less what that last action sequence amounts to, and it’s difficult not to chuckle a little when you remember that these two men are literally running toward a gargantuan phallic symbol.
What’s perhaps most surprising about Venom’s depiction of physical intimacy is the tone it ends on for Eddie and Anne, who, by the film’s close, have broken up—though it’s strongly implied that Eddie sincerely wants to patch things up with her. Bonding with the symbiote leaves Anne with a newfound appreciation for what Eddie’s gone through, and she admits to missing the power and strength that the alien imbued her with, a feeling that Eddie echoes. Anne’s convinced that she and Eddie are done for good, but both Eddie and the symbiote are convinced that they can change that.
That they both want to be back with Anne as a kind of unique triad reads as surprisingly queer, especially when you consider that while both Eddie and the symbiote are coded as male throughout the movie, the symbiote has also had the experience of being bonded with Anne. There’s a fascinating complexity to that dynamic between the three of them (and the related sexual overtones) that unexpectedly introduces some interesting ideas into a comic book movie you wouldn’t expect to encounter them in. Whether or not the film will get a sequel and further lean into those ideas remains to be seen.