It’s finally here! Former Misfits singer Glenn Danzig’s debut feature Verotika has been released to the masses! The movie is a horror anthology based on Danzig’s spooky adult-theme comic series Verotik. After audiences laughed throughout the world premiere at the Cinepocalypse film festival last year, I was convinced Danzig would try to bury it, too embarrassed to show it to anyone else. But as his discography and overall career has proved, Danzig is beyond embarrassment. I was genuinely excited to see Verotika, but my expectations for his directorial debut were set fairly low.
The movie opens on she-demon Morella (Kayden Kross)—probably the sexiest Crypt Keeper you’ll ever encounter—as she tortures her prisoner by plunging her long red nails into the eyes of her victim. Licking the blood off her fingers, she turns towards the camera and introduces the first story…
“I paid good money for Verotika because I was convinced I could invite friends over once a year, have a couple dozen drinks and cringe-laugh ourselves silly. “
The Albino Spider of Dajette takes place in Paris, where all the characters speak English with phony French accents. It centers on Dajette (Ashley Wisdom), a young model with a unique problem—she has eyes for nipples. After scaring away yet another date, Dajette’s cries from her boob-eyes. The tears drop onto a spider, causing it to morph into a fully-grown six-armed man-spider (Scotch Hopkins). Every time Dajette falls asleep, the Albino Spider appears and kills young blonde women across town.
In Change of Face, a mysterious girl (Rachel Alig) corners women in alleyways and demands they give her their face. When they refuse (because who would willingly give away the skin off their face?), the Mystery Girl cuts off their face and wears it to her job at the local strip club. Mystery Girl’s stage act is billed as the most exotic of all dancers but really, her routine is just her showing off her cape while wearing a mask (which begs the question, why steal other people’s faces if she’s just going hide her face at work). Meanwhile, a tough-as-nails detective (Sean Kanan) is hot on her trail and won’t let anything get in his way from bringing the face-collector to justice.
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The final story, Drukija Contessa of Blood is a tribute to the story of Elizabeth Bathory. Set in olden times, Countess Drukija (Alice Haig doing a terrible Eastern European accent) sends her noblewoman (Natalia Borowsky) to pay the village peasants for their virgin daughters, so that Drukija could butcher the girls and bathe in their blood. Like Bathory, she believes the blood of the virgin girls rejuvenates her skin and makes her younger. But Drukija takes it one step further by eating their hearts and beheading the girls if they dare escape her castle. That’s essentially all there is to it. If Drukija is supposed to be the central character, then she doesn’t deal with any conflict, making this last section more of a premise than a story.
The great thing about an anthology, though, is that you don’t have to commit too much to the story and characters. Initial reviews of Verotika called it an “accidental horror-comedy.” Other critics went as far as to call it “The Room of horror.” Danzig might look a bit like Tommy Wiseau, but the fact is, Danzig wishes his movie was as fun as The Room, even if a lot of the funniest moments in Verotika are unintentional.
“Danzig wishes his movie was as fun as The Room…”
The biggest problem with Verotika is its editing. Every single scene ends with a slow fade out. It definitely could have used some variety in its scene transitions. Hell, I would have settled for a star-swipe instead of another goddamn slow fade out! Every single scene lingers on for too long. The camera stays on the main characters long after their one action is complete, forcing them to hold their final position, or to repeat the same action over and over until the scene inevitably fades out slowly. It’s as if Danzig was yelling “keep going!” or “hold it there!” from behind the camera well after all the dialogue had run out for the scene. It’s a lot like that gag from Family Guy when Peter Griffin skins his knee and spends a long period of time wincing in pain; at first it’s funny, then it’s annoying, then it’s funny all over again. At times, you can see supposed corpses begin to fidget, impatiently waiting for someone to yell cut! At an hour and a half, Verotika feels way too long for what it is.
The script and the acting leave a lot to be desired as well, but watching most “low/no-budget” horror movies for the acting (unless it’s Hereditary) is like watching porn for the plot (strangely enough, the strongest actor in Verotika is an adult film star). With all of negativity out of the way, let’s talk about what works for this movie…
For its minimal budget, Verotika accomplishes its dark aesthetic in terms of the giallo-esque scene lighting, gothic décor and costume design. The first segment is very absurdist in contrast to the other two, and you can appreciate the work that went into the makeup and prosthetics of Dajette and her Albino Spider. The practical effects can be hit or miss. In the second segment, the makeup for the exposed flesh on people’s faces is well done, though the skin the Mystery Girl removes from their faces looks very fake. In the final segment, the special effects team were able to convincingly hide canons of red corn syrup in the throats of these young girls. The trailer of Verotika promises busty, scantily-clad women, and in that respect, it delivers in spades.
The gothy soundtrack is also quite decent. Most of the songs play during the strip club scenes in Change of Face. Of course, Danzig had to insert his own music in there, but the strip club scenes also led me to discover Vile a Sin, which has some great screamy vocals over eerie synths and doomy riffs. The setting in The Albino Spider of Dajette gives the excuse to play French punk like Métal Urbain, and I absolutely adore that gritty fast style of punk (I’ve been wanting to visit France for the sole reason of checking out its punk scene). I’ll be throwing a few of these songs on my Gut The Punks Spotify playlist, because why the hell not?!
“For its minimal budget, Verotika accomplishes its dark aesthetic in terms of the giallo-esque scene lighting, gothic décor and costume design.”
I think with a better cut, Verotika would be worth viewing multiple times the same way people attend sold-out midnight screenings of The Room. I paid good money for Verotika because I was convinced I could invite friends over once a year, have a couple dozen drinks and cringe-laugh ourselves silly. But after a single viewing, I don’t think that will be happening. I don’t see Verotika getting a cult status anytime soon. Danzig’s appreciation of horror cinema hasn’t helped him at all in his filmmaking. But now that he’s aware the horror community does not take him seriously, he might be able to use that to his advantage on his next project.
Verotika is now available on Video on Demand and it’s three-disc Blu-Ray/DVD (includes the soundtrack on CD) is on March 17. Let us know what you thought of Danzig’s debut feature over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club.