Film Review - Verotika (2019)
Oh, mother… this hurts.
Glenn Danzig, the ever-glowering, diminutive-yet-muscular original frontman of punk legends The Misfits, has finally entered the world of filmmaking, and honestly, it may be one of the most hilariously inadvertent cinematic debuts ever seen in the horror community. It’s a hard truth that the best bad films are films that were made when the best intentions to create a good film go horribly awry. It’s hard to create a purposeful “bad” film - Lost Skeleton of Cadavra is one of the best examples of this rarity succeeding, but, the most enjoyable bad films come from honest desire, not smug irony. Plan 9 From Outer Space, Troll 2, and, yes, the current touchstone of cinematic hubris gone horribly wrong, The Room, have all achieved sustained notoriety, and, by proxy, enjoyability, from word of mouth, midnight screenings, finally arriving at cult status. Glenn Dazing’s Verotika is the new contender to the throne of film absurdity, and, for better or worse, is an experience not to be missed.
Verotika is a horror anthology based upon Danzig’s comic book of the same name, and centers on a killer horror hostess, Morella (played in a blasé monotone by adult film actress Kayden Kross), as she introduces three short horror tales. Creepshow, this is not; Hell, this isn’t too far off from the abysmal Creepshow 3, which really deserves to be buried and forgotten. If all three tales in Verotika come directly from entries in the comic series, it would not be surprising; each story in the anthology barely resonate beyond visual cues, and even though may be more interesting in a two-dimensional still frame, and not as a live-action film. That’s not to say that Verotika feels slight by any means; the film is a perfect visual representation of the last handful of Danzig’s album - moments of raw talent and genius completely beaten to death by a narcissist who is DIRE NEED to a producer to reign him the fuck in.
It’s hard to pinpoint the main reason Verotika fails, as it fails on EVERY CONCEIVABLE level. The blame mostly rests with Danzig, as he acts here as Producer, Writer, Director, and Cinematographer. The cast, en masse, made largely of adult film actresses, cannot act; talents range from a disconnected monotone to such over-the-top French accents, the French Taunter in Monty Python and the Holy Grail seems subtle in comparison. Within the opening frames of the film, we are introduced to Morella, the aforementioned Kayden Kross, who absolutely drains the film of whatever momentum it ever has every time she is onscreen. To think that Danzig, or anyone, thought that this actress had the talent or charisma to carry this film is laughable — this is the one case in the film where over-the-top would have been perfectly acceptable, but Morella’s dialogue is delivered with such non-delivery that it almost impressive.
The stories themselves fail to achieve any sort of resonance and only achieve baseline memorability through ridiculousness. The first segment (“The Albino Spider of Dajette”) revolves around a streetwalker with nipples for eyes whose breasts’ tears drip onto a terrible CGI spider, which cause it to grow into a huge albino-man spider with four terribly fake arms who stalks victims while the breast-eyed woman is asleep. The second story (“Change of Pace) follows a masked stripper, known only as “Mystery Girl,” as she dances for customers and stalks victims for new faces - and that’s it. The trio of stories is capped by “Drukija, Contessa of Blood,” a low-rent Countess Bathory story that makes the medieval films of Uwe Boll look like the highest budget sword-and-sandals flick Hollywood could make, mostly centers upon a Countess and her knights hunting, as they pronounce it, VER-GINS across the countryside. This final segment holds some of the best production values of any of the segments, but Danzig’s nasty habit of holding shots about 10 seconds too long rob this chapter of any effectiveness.
We return to Morella, who, again, gives a passionless, bland statement about the preceding segment, and simply signs off with an “Until we meet again, stay dark,” a sentiment that truly feels like a threat. The movie just ends - and then the credits are accompanied by the most boring, morose music… again, it seems if Danzig is ACTIVELY TRYING to suck the pace out of his own flick. The film is, most certainly, the kind of movie that should end with a big, loud, stupid metal song… but Glenn’s self-importance cannot be contained. And therein lies the distressing point of this film — every segment consistently has the exact same issues as the segment before, ensuring every minute of this film is the same ridiculous, excruciating pastiche of what Glenn Danzig thinks is horror and what Glenn Danzig thinks is sexy. Throughout every chapter of Verotika, shots linger an exhausting length, causing the actors to awkwardly continue to “act” or hold steady before the shot cuts. The makeup through the whole of the flick is fairly disappointing, with the fake arms of the albino man-spider being the most egregious effect, although a surprise blood spurt makes for a pretty enjoyable moment during the “Drukija” chapter. Perhaps the most offensive aspect of the film is how incredibly boring each segment becomes; meandering scenes of the Contessa playing with the blood of her VER-GINS or the mystery girl skinning faces are nearly unforgivable - how could this be so terrible?
Verotika is truly a film that has to be seen to be believed, and, the best way to see Verotika would be with a rowdy, slightly inebriated crowd - preferably a crowd knowledgable about who Danzig is and how little humor the man seems to have when it comes to himself (his brilliant appearance in Portlandia notwithstanding). Verotika is a complete failure as a serious horror film, but for 90 minutes of entertainment, worse options exist. Danzig failed to bring the dizzying style and flair of Mario Bava, but has effortlessly emulated the work of lesser Italian journeymen like Claudio Fragasso and Joe D’Amato, creating a film that would be very much at home in the direct-to-video quagmire of pre-Scream horror films. The truth of the matter, however, is simple: Verotika is only of note due to its (in)famous creator; if Glenn Danzig had not helmed this beautiful, terrible misfire, this film would be a forgotten option on the last page of the most generic horror film options on your favorite streaming site. Here’s hoping Danzig’s next film, a vampire spaghetti western, is just as bad - or, Satan help us all, worse!
*this review appeared previously on the now defunct but much missed Indy Metal Vault*