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Verotika (2019) – Danzig’s Brutal Directorial Debut

1.5/5

You may be wondering how I could both refer to the film making genius of Glenn Danzig, while also scoring his 2019 horror anthology, Verotika, so low. The answer is simple, it’s a really bad movie it is also exactly the type of film that I have been hoping someone would make. Strangely enough, with a few tweaks, better production and a bit more time studying film technique, it could lead to something fantastic. This review is going to pan just about every aspect of Glenn’s film, but there is a brave little kernel of honesty that belies Verotika that I absolutely love.

It Has Been Called Horror Equivalent of The Room

In 2020, Patrick Bromley did a review of Verotika that described it as the horror equivalent of the brutally bad film, The Room (2003). To be fair, Patrick isn’t the only guy that made this connection. Alex McLevy also made the same comparison in his review. Bottom line, there must be something to this if two people independently come to the same conclusion. I do understand the comparison. The writing is brutally bad and at no point do any of the actors generate any semblance of chemistry or purpose.

Furthermore, there is a suffocating feeling of claustrophobia throughout the film as there is almost no sense of motion from scene to scene. The transitions are blunt and unforgiving. Much like The Room, the audience gropes and struggles for any thread of intellectual continuity that will allow them to understand the narrative that is being presented. However, there is one glaring detail that makes Danzig’s film infinitely better than The Room. I actually spent the time to finish it.

Glenn Danzig’s compiles an anthology of three stories. A devil-girl named Moerella, played by adult actress Kayden Kross, introduces each tale. Being vaguely familiar with Glenn Danzig’s Verotik comic book imprint, I was able to quickly surmise that his anthology was based directly on his comic books.

Verotika (2019) - The she-devil Morella (Kayden Kross) guides us through Danzig's horror universe
The she-devil Morella (Kayden Kross) guides us through Danzig’s horror universe. Again, Danzig pulls of a fantastic comic book frame.

The Albino Spider of Dajette

The opening story is the tale of a prostitute and model named Dajette (Ashley Wisdom) who inexplicably has eyeballs instead of nipples on her extremely impressive breasts. This story takes place in France, explaining the brutality of the actors manufactured accents. During a heavy necking session, Dajette’s partner unveils her extra-ocular secret and exclaims, “Your teets, zay are looking at me”. Oh my, I couldn’t make that line up if I tried. Glenn’s story only gets weirder from here.

After her man stomps out the door in disgust, Dajette rains boob tears on an albino spider that has been crawling around her apartment. This triggers a metamorphosis into full-sized human/spider hybrid. I am still not making this up. The story suggests that the Albino Spider can only be free to do the bidding of her subconscious while she is asleep, dreaming. As Dajette takes her first slumber, the Albino Spider kills her roommate as the opening move in a murderous rampage of prostitutes and other denizens of the night.

Eventually, Dajette must trick the spider to end his reign of terror. All things considered, at least this episode of the anthology has a conclusive ending.

Verotika (2019) - The Albino Spider of Dajette
Despite the many cinematographic challenges, Danzig has an eye for shot-framing that pops

Change of Face

Again, relying on prostitutes to drive the narrative, the second story involves a stripper name Mystery Girl (Rachel Alig) that stalks prostitutes and sex workers in order to slice their faces from their heads. She in turn wears these faces, but not in the Leatherface way. Her faces are a bit more form fitting and less mangled. They look nicer this way. For the purpose of understanding the whole of Danzig’s anthology, “Change of Face” is essential. This is not because its plot reveals anything of significance, but rather it provides a visual centerpiece for the entire film.

Glenn shamelessly, drops into a 3 minute general purpose stripper scene that eventually parlays into an additional 2 minute bout with Mystery Girl gyrating to his own soundtrack, “Eyes Ripping Fire”. And honestly, when you boil this film down to its essence, this one scene says everything there is to say about this movie. Verotika is a strip club posing as a horror anthology that only plays heavy metal music while the girls dance and monster movies play on the faded T.V. behind bar. Strangely, I am okay with that. I didn’t know that I needed that in my life until Glenn put it in front of me. I tell you, Glenn Danzig is a visionary.

No kidding, “Change of Face” spends at least 10 collective minutes pouring over women working the poles.

Soon, a hard-knocks band of detectives are on the case after a woman is found stripped of her face. In a profound example of awesome police work, Sergeant Anders tells his team, “There’s your motive… they wanted a face”. Certainly, Glenn intended this to be a joke, and it worked. Was it also a joke when the same cop later says, “Young woman… face cut off… no motive, no witnesses… no leads, no evidence?” It seems the motive is “they wanted a face”. Ultimately, the ending of “Change of Face” is open ended and not very satisfying.

Fun fact, X-Pac from the D-Generation-X of the WWF works the front door of “Pussy Kats”.

Verotika (2019) - Change of Face - Another example of proficient shot framing
Here is another interesting shot angle that demonstrates at least a proficient vision

Drukija, Contessa of Blood

The final story in Glenn’s anthology takes cues from the age old story of Countess Elizabeth Báthory who purportedly bathed in the blood of slaughtered peasants to retain her youth. Drujika, portrayed by Alice Haig, lives in a similar existence of inflicting pain. Danizig starts this episode briskly with Drujika purchasing the virgin daughter of a local peasant, played by the great Caroline Williams. That was a decent horror icon for Glenn to land.

From there, not much happens other than the obvious, Drujika slices the wrists and and throats of her victims and bathes in their blood. Each kill amounts to little more than a celebration of the nude female form and a significant bloodletting. Drujika later pulls the still-beating heart from the chest of another peasant before devouring it and she beheads yet another one. And, there you have it, “Drujika, Contessa of Blood”. There really isn’t much more to it than that. Again, Glenn Danzig leaves the ending completely open-ended.

A Struggles Beging With Writing

First off Glenn Danzig’s writing is profoundly As a fan of Glenn Danzig’s music I had spent a bit of time with the Verotik comic book catalog. I simply could not never get into the one dimensional nature of his characters. Every book was flat, predictable and mundane. I did appreciate some of the art work, but never felt attracted to the storytelling. Unfortunately, this trait persisted into the Verotika screenplay. At best these stories didn’t make sense, at worst they just sputtered out like a week old candle.

Just like in the books, the characters in Verotika were as flat as the pages they were originally printed on. At no point did I feel compelled to wonder about their backstory or future. They were just stage props intended to drive-up the gore quotient.

Verotika (2019) - Durjika, Contessa of Blood - A retelling of Countess Bathory
Glenn Danzig reimagines the story of Countess Elizabeth Bathory

Glenn Has A Vision, But No Execution

According to the credits, Glenn Danzig and David Newbert shot the film. The total sterility of the high-definition camera reaches out and smacks the viewer in the face with every frame. There is no sense of depth and the resolution perfect to a fault. The cameras are so resolute that they effortlessly pick-up the pancaked make-up base on the actresses faces. To be fair, it’s a mistake that plagues a lot of amateur filmmakers these days. The equipment has reached a level of perfection that one must actively roll it back to return to some semblance of personality.

The lack of depth and the seemingly lack of creativity with the optics creates a tapestry the likes of a barren field. Many of the shots use an exceptional log depth of field that cripples the effectiveness of any dynamic camera movements and zooms. In short, the cinematography feels amateurish and simple.

Does this mean that Glenn Danzig should never be allowed around a camera. Absolutely not! Certainly this film reveals that Danzig should spend more time studying the technical art of cinematography, but I did catch some glimpses of his vision. As I combed the film for stills, I found that many of the shots were framed very well indeed. In fact, many of the scenes had a comic book like quality to them which I can only presume was intentional. What this told me is that Glenn’s vision for the shot was right on, but his ability to execute moving pictures is where he lacked. I think if he were to study under a great photographer, he could have potential.

Brian Cox is credited with the editing. Overall, the editing not only fails to assist the cinematography, but actually makes it worse. Nearly every scene ends with brutish fade to black. Making matters worse, poor microphone management makes the ‘air’ of each set far more prevalent in the mix than necessary. This leads to an audible drop-out to deafening silence as Cox transitions between scenes. The next scene abruptly dives back in with its own hissing air. The viewer feels pounded into submission by the 50th transition.

Special Effects

While this is another area that fails to impress, I find that it is far more forgivable than the other bits. There are a lot of good movies with questionable effects, so I can’t put that much weight on it what I would call a respectable try. During the opening credits, there is some very interesting CGI that briefly summarizes the upcoming episodes. However, there are some pretty painful moments in the “Albino Spider of Dajette”, where the titular spider has a gaping hole in his rubber spider pajamas. The severed head in “Drujika, Contessa of Blood” looked like it was scored at a Spirit Halloween store.

Still, they managed to capture some decent imagery between the special effects and the camera. The crimson flows in “Drujika” had a bit of an Tenebrae (1982) feel to them. Please, please use that reference with care. I’d hate to piss Dario Argento. We especially enjoyed the color and framing of the policemen peering over the posed body of faceless girl in “Change of Face”. Giving credit where credit is due, there is a bit of artistic merit in these shots.

An Awfully High Opinion Of Bad Movie

At this point I have spent over 12000 word brutally laying the dismal facts about this film. Yet, there is something I find fascinating about it. I personally feel that this film provides a first class ticket into the mind of Glenn Danzig. I mentally bonded with the man as I consumed this film. This is exactly the film that Glenn Danzig set out to make, and quite frankly, the world needs something like it. This film unabashedly takes overt pornographic overtones and entwines it with gory horror. The metaphor stands, it’s a strip club in the bloody bowels of a slaughter house in hell.

Some people might think that this film is a clear indicator that Danzig should retire the camera for good. I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, I would like to see him double down with Verotika II. All things considered, if Glenn would simply enlist the help of true professionals and spent less time doing things he clearly is not qualified for, he could create something really, really good. He should focus on story boards and choreography, while the experts figured out the execution. Verotika never comes close to being a good movie, but it was almost entertaining.

With Verotika, I caught a glimpse of the potential that blatant sex and horror can achieve. I’d really like to see if Glenn Danzig can improve upon this mess of a film and take another proverbial stab at it.

Verotika (2019) - Danzig's Brutal Directorial Debut - Malevolent Dark
verotika morella played by kayden kross 1

Director: Glenn Danzig

Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33

Editor's Rating:
2

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