Verotika is un film de Danzig so, even without knowing anything else about it, it’s an intriguing prospect. The title, in case you’re a bit slow, is a combination of the words “violent” and “erotica” (siiiiiiiick, bro) taken from The Grumpy One’s adult comic-book series, Verotik, which is loaded with sex and violence to cover up for the lack of any coherent ideas (why the “a” has been added on for the film adaptation is anyone’s guess, but it’s entirely possible Danzig just thought it sounded more legit). The same could be said for Verotika, an anthology flick comprising of just three installments that strains to make it 90 minutes and makes The Room look well-made in comparison.
Seriously, you may have heard this is like The Room of horror movies, but that’s giving it way too much credit. That would mean it’s actually fun or funny or dumb enough to laugh at, rather than just woefully dull, exploitative, and so badly put together certain commentators have wondered whether it’s purposely done since Danzig is a lifelong fan of Ed Wood (his record label, for example, is called Plan 9). Wood, of course, wasn’t actively trying to make bad movies. And he had ideas in his head that went beyond what a 13-year-old boy might dream up.
Verotika is presided over, to an extent, by a horror hostess modeled on Elvira, only with even more boobage on show somehow. She calls us “darklings” because that’s probably the title of an upcoming Danzig single. This is Morella (Kayden Kross, who does the best with the pitiful scraps she’s given), who enjoys torturing women (always women, barely one man perishes over the course of this turgid little film) by plucking out their eyeballs with her insanely long fake nails in a basement dungeon that’s clearly been fitted out by Danzig Interiors. Morella intros each segment and, for the movie’s final payoff, if you can even call it that, lightly pays homage to the last one. Other than that, she’s window dressing along with every other pneumatic woman onscreen.
First up is “The Albino Spider of Dajette” which starts off like soft-core porn and only gets worse from there – did I mention this is also the strongest segment? Not that that’s saying much, of course. The titular lady, Dajette, is afflicted with eyeballs on her nipples that weep (her date flees in terror, shouting about her tits “looking” at him) onto a nearby albino spider, bringing it to life in horrifying form (and by horrifying, I mean the makeup and prosthetics are so bad it made me wince every time the thing was onscreen), and leading it to wreak havoc on her small, Parisian suburb every time Dajette goes to sleep. Sacre bleu!
The French accents – why is this set in France exactly? To provide ambience, like a small smoke machine? – are truly terrible, with actors pronouncing “strange” like “strawnge” and drawing out the word “specialty” to give it three extra syllables. At one point, the spider-man (but not Spider-Man, to be clear) corners a prostitute, because of course, in an alleyway and tells her he wants to snap her neck. Soon, he’s earned the moniker Le Neckbreaker, which would be funny if it wasn’t so unbelievably lame. Remember that episode of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch where she’s trying to write a spy story and calls her villain Dr. Bad? Yeah, that. Only nobody was brave enough to tell Danzig to go back to the drawing board.
In the world of Verotika, all women have massive tits that they like to get out at a moment’s notice and none of them hold jobs that don’t involve stripping or sex. To make matters worse, the actress who plays Dajette (Ashley Wisdom) is rumoured to be Danzig’s real-life girlfriend. Eek. Anyway, without spoiling anything (although, really, who cares?) she has to figure out a way to stay awake to save people from being killed, so Dajette heads to the local porno theatre and gets felt up by a group of men after nodding off. Imagine thinking that a woman, any woman, would go to a porno theatre alone in an effort to stay safe and awake. Did Danzig think he was referencing Taxi Driver here or something? If you’re considering watching Verotika because you’re in lockdown and have watched literally everything else available, turn it off once this segment is done. Save yourself!
Up next is “Change of Face,” the second story in this godforsaken thing, which takes place primarily at a strip club where women dance to nu-metal though, curiously, not nearly enough of Danzig’s own material (the score, to be fair, is great across the board but then it ought to be). A dancer known only as “Mystery Girl” (Rachel Alig) performs wearing a mask but she’s still sexy, y’all. Later, we learn she’s stealing people’s faces because hers is very artfully scarred. Now, that may sound horrific, but it’s executed so shoddily onscreen that it’s impossible to be scared or even disgusted. Poor Courtney Stodden cameos and loses her face in distractingly unconvincing fashion – hasn’t she suffered enough!?
So much about “Change of Face” makes no sense, including the killer’s motivation since all she seems to want to do with her collection of faces is hang them on the wall and talk to them. Oh well, at least she doesn’t live in “France” and therefore get christened Le Facepeeler or something. Finally, the most inexplicably dull and repetitive segment of all is “Drukija Contessa of Blood.” Set in ye olden days, it features the titular lady, who enjoys, you’ve guessed it, bathing in blood like Elizabeth Bathory. Hey, if you thought that one scene in Hostel: Part II was too short and not explicit enough, you’re in luck! This is 30 minutes of just that over and over but shot really terribly!
To add insult to injury, the terrifically talented Kansas Bowling, who directed her own feature, B.C. Butcher, while still a teenager and recently popped up in Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, appears as a nubile young woman who’s captured and killed by Drujika for her sweet virgin blood and then has to sit in shot with her breasts on show for the remainder of the short’s run-time. It truly pains me to see such talent wasted, and for nothing. So with one final, relatively decent (in comparison to what’s come before) sign off from Morella, Verotika is over. What did we learn, kids? Women all look and act like porn stars and they’re only good for stripping, sex, rape, and vicious murder?
The thing about Verotika is, it’s so incompetently made that getting mad at its capital-D (or should that be capital-DD?) dodgy sexual politics feels like a waste of energy. Yes, Danzig clearly, on this evidence, is about as much of a feminist as President Cheeto, maybe even less so, but he’s also got the brain capacity and imagination of a teenage boy with his dick in his hand. Verotika is genuinely what you’d expect a horny teenager to come up with, from its buxom ladies to its inexplicably lengthy strip club-set sequences to the insanely over the top blood and violence, none of which is convincing. Hell, if any of this stuff was in any way entertaining, you could chalk this one up to a guilty pleasure in the same vein as the best exploitation movies of the seventies and eighties. Even Rob Zombie would turn his nose up at this for being too rough and he shot parts of House of 1000 Corpses in the damn basement.
There are moments when actors are glimpsed clearly standing on their marks, waiting for their cues, in shot. Danzig zooms in on an actor’s face and then, when he’s halfway there, stops and reconsiders what he’s doing – this happens several times, over and over again. The final moments of “Drujika” are captured from the side, so we don’t get a full-on look at what’s actually happening in the bath of blood, as though nothing was blocked or, when the crew started rolling, nobody thought to point out that the shot was wrongly set up. It’s clear Danzig got a ton of coverage for his movie, which is always a smart thing to do, but instead of just using what he needed, instead the writer-director decided to include absolutely everything that was captured on film. It’s insane to think about, but this 90-minute movie drags considerably more than once because the editor either didn’t do his job right or wasn’t allowed to cut, basically, anything.
The performances are also almost universally terrible, with the exception of Bowling, who makes an impression at least while her character is still alive, Natalia Borowsky as Drujilla’s handmaiden and maybe lover, who’s the only actor who seems to be having any fun, and, at a push, Wisdom who’s empathetic under a terrible pixie wig as Dajette and emerges relatively unscathed after her tussle with the spider-man (side note: feel free to sing “Spider” to the tune of “Mother” and make up your own lyrics if you get bored watching this rubbish — and you will). Everybody else is dreadful, including Horror Icon Caroline Williams, who I still haven’t forgiven for the 2016 redux of Blood Feast. It beggars belief that she’s stuck in a supporting role, given she’s arguably the biggest name, but such is Danzig’s, I dunno, artistry? Is having no clue what you’re doing while also having nothing interesting or new to say considered artistry?
Verotika may sound like so bad it’s good territory but, make no mistake, it is a slog to get through. It starts off kind of insane and goofy with the whole rapey albino spider thing, but quickly devolves into dull, uninspired, nonsensical wannabe offensive clap-trap. There’s not even any shock for shock value’s sake, because Danzig is so divorced from what’s actually scary or unsettling. He thinks putting eyes on boobs, with no explanation given as to why, is a clever thing to do. He thinks bathing in blood is a new idea. He thinks wearing other people’s faces is shocking only if the character then puts a mask over the new face. He thinks practical gore is best when you cut around it so the money shot is robbed of all impact. He has a character say the sentence “ass f**k is my speciality” without a shred of irony.
Maybe living under lockdown will make you desperate enough to watch Verotika, but I implore you to steer clear. There’s nothing to see here, except for Danzig’s ass on full display because the self-styled emperor of darkness is truly just an immature pretender to the throne. If you thought those stories about the Big Guy loving onion soup and refusing to come onstage because it was too cold were humiliating enough, well, prepare yourself because Verotika is his biggest embarrassment yet.
WICKED RATING: 2/10
Director(s): Glenn Danzig
Writer(s): Glenn Danzig
Stars: Ashley Wisdom, Rachel Alig, Kayden Kross, Kansas Bowling, Caroline Williams
Release date: Available on Digital and DVD now (stay away, friends)
Studio/Production Company: Dark Risen Pictures
Run Time: 90 minutes