Say what you will about the various art Glenn Danzig has released to the public, but the man should be admired for doing what he wants with said art. At a young age, Danzig decided he wanted to be a musician and for over 40 years he’s been committed to that industry. Along the way he’s taken risks, both creatively and commercially, and some have worked out well financially and some have not. Always though, he’s stayed true to his own vision and rarely does it feel like he’s ever compromised that vision.
In the mid-90s, Danzig decided he had other pursuits he wanted to undertake. He launched his own comic book publishing company and named it Verotik. Verotik specialized in horror and hyper sexualized stories that the main publishers in the world of comics would never touch. Around the same time, he also started poking around the world of Hollywood eventually taking a small role in the film The Prophecy II in which he was almost comically dispatched of in a few seconds of screen time. It was also around this time he was boasting about being sought for the role of Wolverine in a future X-Men film, though how serious such overtures were at the time are unknown.
For who knows how long, Danzig has wanted to climb into the director’s chair and oversee the creation of his own film. In 2019, that dream came true. And true to Danzig’s musical legacy, his film is undoubtedly uncompromised and the film Glenn Danzig wanted to make. Verotika is a horror anthology film based on properties launched by Danzig’s comic line. Some of the stories are more or less taken right from the page and adapted for the big screen. In creating the film, Danzig formed a partnership with Cleopatra Entertainment in what looks to be a multi-film deal. The movie was released in June of 2019 in very limited amounts, basically just special screenings attended by Danzig himself in high profile markets like LA and New York.
Verotika was never screened in a city near me so I never had to make the perhaps difficult decision of whether or not to attend. The film has been nearly universally panned by critics with the often repeated comparison being that this is The Room of horror films. That doesn’t mean all of the reviews have been necessarily negative. Some expressed that film is not good, but it’s charmingly bad in ways that some of the most awesomely bad movies are. The film is low budget and full of the sex and violence that appeals to Danzig. The cast is populated by trained actors and actresses as well as veterans of the adult film industry, so I think anyone familiar with Danzig’s work likely has a good idea of what kind of experience they’re in for.
As a longtime fan of Glenn Danzig’s music, I felt like I basically owed it to myself to watch this film. I love the music of Danzig, but my fandom has largely ended there. What little of Verotik I thumbed through rarely appealed to me. Danzig’s directorial efforts with his music videos are mostly bad, and I basically assumed that I am going to dislike this film. Maybe I’ll be able to laugh at it, but I don’t know. I’m not the type of person that enjoys watching bad movies typically. At least with Verotika I’m signing up for an anthology that totals just 90 minutes, so it’s not a huge investment of time and there is a built in mechanism to reset my attention span. And even though I have in some ways dreaded viewing this film, I know my curiosity is too much to ignore so when the film went up for pre-order on Amazon I placed my order and waited.
Verotika arrived and alongside it came an unexpected surprise. The physical release for the film is the standard Blu Ray and DVD combo, but it also includes a CD soundtrack as well which is pretty cool. It’s not a particularly great soundtrack, and the only Danzig track is the previously released “Eyes Ripping Fire,” but it’s still a nice gesture. The soundtrack is also available separately on vinyl, for interested parties. I settled into watch this one, and since it is an anthology film, it presents nice opportunities for breaks during the feature. There are three segments and they are: The Albino Spider of Dajette, Change of Face, and Drukija: Contessa of Blood. There’s a framing device in-between them all hosted by Morella (Kayden Kross) in a Vampira-like role as she introduces the macabre to come while some hapless girl (Noelle Ann Mabry, with possibly the best performance of the entire film) is tortured.
Women being victimized by other women seems to be the name of the game in this film. All three stories feature that in some capacity, though in the first segment the woman, Dajette (Ashley Wisdom), is inadvertently harming women. I was prepared for a lot of things when I sat down to watch this. I knew there would be gore, I expected plenty of nude women, and I also anticipated some unintentional comedy on account of the fact that this is a relatively low budget film. What I did not anticipate was boredom. Yes, Verotika is a bad movie, but as far as awesomely bad is concerned I’m not sure I’d classify this as such. There’s a lot of bad acting, and what’s not helping the actors out is the need to utilize accents in two of the three segments. The script is poor and at times laughable, but not gratuitously so. It’s a just a lot of wooden scenes surrounded by poor lighting, hollow audio, and irrational editing. There’s even a shot where a corpse blinks and it’s confusing how something like that makes it into the final cut of any film.
The three stories ask very little of the audience. Only the first felt the least bit ambitious as it concerns a woman, who when sleeps unleashes some sort of spider-demon on the populace. The spider wants to mate and kill in that order, and our protagonist needs to come up with a way to stop it. The segment relies way too much on actress Ashley Wisdom who is not up to task. The spider (Scotch Hopkins) does better, but the script gives him little to work with. He’s also burdened by some ambitious prosthetics that really aren’t all that bad, but could have been helped out with better lighting choices.
That segment might actually be the most narratively sound as the other two leave a lot to be desired. “Change of Face” follows the not very mysterious Mystery Girl (Rachel Alig) as she goes around cutting the faces off of young women and then masquerading as a stripper during the night. A detective pursues her, but is laughably played by Sean Kanan and hard to take serious. This segment features the most padding as on three occasions it resorts to extended segments of strippers performing their routine in a rather mundane fashion. Verotika would actually disappoint in the titillation department if stumbled upon at two AM on Cinemax.
The third segment is even more droll as it casts Alice Tate (who performs quite well under the circumstances) as Drukija, an Elizabeth Bathory type who poaches young girls from a village to bathe in their blood. She one-ups the countess by also feasting on the heart of a young girl. The story has no pay-off and is more of a fetish as we watch Drukija murder several young women. It takes place in a medieval setting so the costumes are a bit interesting and her ceremonial bathing apparatus is certainly a sight to see, but it offers little else.
Verotika is neither sexy, nor particularly gory. There is a lot of blood in some scenes, but the most gratuitous probably occurs during the film’s opening minutes. The film is not thought-provoking and it isn’t interested in exploring much of anything. And at 90 minutes it overstays its welcome by a lot. It’s hard to even pick which segment is the superior one. The concept of the spider is the most complex, while the “Change of Face” segment is the most procedurally ambitious as it attempts to present a murder-mystery thriller, but it really just exposes the weakness of the talent on hand. I guess the third is the best by default since it’s at least visually interesting and presents a decent premise. It just doesn’t move beyond its premise and could easily have been half as long. Or better yet, it could have just been a music video.
Glenn Danzig not only wrote and directed this picture, but he also provided the score. If you’re familiar with his Black Aria albums then it should sound mostly familiar. There are a few moments where I liked what I was hearing, but for the most part it’s forgettable. The licensed tracks are largely reserved for the stripper scenes, and in that respect they work fine. They’re not particularly sexy, but it’s not like Danzig was going to pay Rick Rubin to utilize “She Rides.”
Obviously I did not enjoy my time with Verotika. That doesn’t change what I started off with though. This is a film made by Glenn Danzig for Glenn Danzig. He’s gone around the country and personally shown this film to audiences and he appears to be quite proud of it. I can only assume that this is the film he wanted to make. And that is great. I wish I could put myself in position to pursue my own art in such a fashion, so even though I didn’t enjoy it I still applaud the man for the film he created. There’s just no way I’m going to seek out his next film.