Resist with all your might the urge to watch this cheap, ugly “erotic horror” anthology just to see how bad it is.
Consider, if you will, one Glenn Danzig, musician, wearer of large belt buckles and 38th most notable person from New Jersey. Though he had a modest hit on MTV with 1993’s “Mother,” perhaps Danzig’s finest moment was playing himself on an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, described by his robot roommate as “so annoying, so frightening, and he doesn’t wear a shirt.” It was proof that he had, at some point, a sense of humor and some modicum of self-awareness. However, all that goodwill has been largely expended, thanks to Verotika, his feature directorial/writing debut that shows such a breathtaking lack of competence it’s almost impressive.
A portmanteau of “violence” and “erotica,” Verotika is an anthology based on stories published in Danzig’s Verotik line of comics, and if this is what gets accepted for publication, I can’t begin to imagine what ends up in the slush pile. As the name suggests, it attempts to merge horror with sexuality, but really it’s just Glenn Danzig jerking off in your face, his personal wank folder immortalized on film in as cheap and tacky a manner as possible. Now, there’s nothing wrong with using film to express your various fetishes, but the problem is that Danzig’s fetishes are so pedestrian that it’s almost insulting, particularly when they’re presented as edgy and “extreme.”
I present to you a short list of what fries Glenn Danzig’s bacon:
- bad plastic surgery
- bad French accents
- lady vampires
It’s okay, I’ll give you a moment to find your monocle. I’d throw in “bad wigs” as well, but it’s uncertain if the Spirit Halloween mops the actresses wear are because they’re a turn-on for Danzig, or because they didn’t want to be recognized.
The best you can say about the first story, “The Albino Spider of Dajette,” is that it has the tiniest crumb, a crumb so small that it wouldn’t satisfy a cartoon mouse, but a crumb nonetheless, of potential. With a complete rewrite and far better production values, it might accomplish a SyFy screening at 2 in the morning, as opposed to the other two stories, which are beyond saving. Arbitrarily set in Paris (but clearly filmed in Los Angeles), it concerns a model (Ashley Wisdom) with eyes where her nipples should be. The nipple eyes produce their own tears, which in turn create a humanoid spider who goes on a killing spree. Like I said, it has potential, not to be good so much as just less terrible. The bar here is set so low it’s underground.
It attempts to merge horror with sexuality, but really it’s just Glenn Danzig jerking off in your face, his personal wank folder immortalized on film in as cheap and tacky a manner as possible.
Next is “A Change of Face,” and while one should never use the word “despondent” to describe horror erotica, I can’t think of a more appropriate word. Taking place in a “strip club” that appears to have been filmed in a VFW hall, the most interesting character is not the serial killer stripper “Mystery Girl,” but a club patron who wears a cowboy hat with the word FUCK in three inch high letters on it. I found myself far more intrigued about where such a wonderful hat came from than the murder mystery it appears in. If you find the idea of half-naked women listlessly gyrating in front of a bank of ATMs terrifying (or arousing, or both), then perhaps this might be the highlight of the anthology for you. Otherwise, unlike “Dajette,” which at least has a discernible beginning, middle and end, “A Change of Face” just lazily fades in and fades out from one scene to the next, with all the raw sexual energy of a timeshare seminar.
Now, surely you might be thinking “It can’t get any worse than that,” but I haven’t gotten to “Drukija: Countess of Blood” yet. Ostensibly a spin on the story of Elizabeth Báthory, the Hungarian countess who murdered peasants and bathed in their blood, it’s not a short film so much as a collection of test shoots Danzig decided were good enough to stitch together and pass off as a complete story. After ripping off a kill from Hostel 2, a scene where Drukija (Alice Haig) admires herself in a mirror goes on for — I kid you not, I counted — one minute and forty-five seconds long. It’s as if someone left the camera running while seeing what kind of sandwiches were at the craft services table, and made all the more bizarre by Haig occasionally glancing over her shoulder, like she’s waiting to be told to stop.
Despite his more than forty years in the entertainment industry, and allegedly directing some of his own music videos, there’s a lot of things Glenn Danzig doesn’t understand about filmmaking, like editing, lighting, and how to both begin and end a scene. He also doesn’t appear to have a grasp on how people speak, or basic human anatomy, as evidenced when Drukija rips out a heart the size of a Thanksgiving turkey from underneath a victim’s ribcage. Like Tommy Wiseau, to whom comparison in these kinds of exercises in ego is inevitable, Danzig has obviously seen a lot of movies, and thinks that merely lifting some aspect from them means he’s an artiste too. Like Neil Breen, he doesn’t even seem to understand the most basic technological aspects of filmmaking. Not knowing that if you shoot on video you can redo as many takes as you want is the only excuse for why a “dead” character flaps her arm around like she’s hailing a cab, or why the all-too-frequent slow zooms often go out of focus.
Though every scene looks like it could turn into pornography at any moment, for a movie that boasts that it’s erotic, it’s remarkably dull. There’s more nudity in a typical HBO prestige series, and certainly more actual sex. It’s difficult to imagine anyone finding Verotika either sexy, or scary, though apparently Danzig thinks that some bare boobs and a couple of plaster skulls lying about is enough to qualify. Perhaps it would be enough if there wasn’t such a thick, impenetrable cloud of “who gives a shit” hanging over it. This doesn’t feel like Danzig’s passion project, it feels like something he was ordered to do as community service.
Because such is the nature of social media, it’s likely that in a couple years, or, hell, a couple months, there will be a “critical reappraisal” about Verotika, bolstered by claims that it’s “not that bad,” or even that Danzig was in on some kind of critics-baiting joke. The first is simply untrue, but the second is far worse, because it’s the coward’s tactic to avoid criticism. Either way, with life as fleeting as it is, there’s simply no reason to devote even a second of it to watching Verotika, not when literally every other horror movie currently streaming would be a better use of your time. Don’t give it any more attention than it took to read this review.
If you’re going to be stubborn about it, Verotika is available on Shudder starting September 24th.