VEROTIKA, written and directed by Glenn Danzig, is trash genius. The horror anthology film was named after his comic book production company and the stories pulled from his ongoing comic series. The word Verotika, which sounds like a drink you might order at a bar in Florida, was created from ‘violence’ and ‘erotic’. But there’s nothing erotic about VEROTIKA unless actors with unexplained French accents is your thing. Despite that, VEROTIKA is campy, bloody, rowdy fun — and never boring.
The anthology attempts a similar tone to Tales From The Crypt except it’s adult-themed and raunchy. But the stories aren’t exactly stories, it’d be fairer to describe them as vignettes or absurd tales. There’s not much plot happening and sometimes it’s hard to understand what exactly is happening. The characters in VEROTIKA aren’t grounded real people, they don’t have clear needs or wants, the plot is nonsensical and the dialogue is stilted — at best. And that’s the charm! It’s a lot of fun.
The dialogue is so bad at times that it’s hilarious. There are comedians out there desperately trying to ape this type of dialogue and coming up short. The acting (at moments) is so over the top, you’d swear you were watching community theater. And yet, that’s what makes it so wonderful. The hamminess makes it funnier. And nobody could make a movie like this if they didn’t truly love horror. It has eye-gouging, face-peeling, stylistic lighting, monsters, women in cool outfits, and blood, lots of it. Everything that Danzig has seen in the genre is thrown in here; there are tidbits of Fulci, Argento, Barker, Bava — in many ways, it feels like a homage film, made by a super fan of the genre, throwing everything at the screen rather than a coherent series of stories.
Glenn Danzig’s VEROTIKA is earnestly filmed. Nobody could make a film this bad without love in their heart. I think so-called ‘bad’ movies reflect reality more readily than ‘good’ films. Is good acting more relatable? I’m not sure, I’ve seen so much bad acting in Los Angeles, I’ve almost come to see it as more representative of the actor. It tells me what they think about themselves and the subject. They’re trying to hide that they’re unable to connect with an emotion, a character or situation, or that they lack empathy, which to me, is quite telling. So strangely enough, I find ‘bad’ acting to be just as interesting as ‘good’ acting.
The three horror stories that make up the anthology have women-identifying protagonists, which made me wonder. Is Danzig a feminist? In the first story, The Albino Spider of Dajette is about a sad model (Ashley Wisdom) with eyes for nipples on her tits, who summons a monster (I think? The plot is shaky) when sleeping to protect her from gross men who attempt to assault her in a theater. She engineers the monster’s death by three French cops in the end, who breakthrough the door with a dumb-looking fake rammer, in a half-hearted, poorly acted attempt to break down the door, which was probably the funniest thing I’ve seen all year.
Did any of that make sense? Well, then you are getting the gist of it, but just in case, here’s a sample of the dialogue:
Gray Thing Spider Monster
First I want to beat you over right here. Then I want to fuck you in the ass.
Oh, Monsieur has goooood eyes. And fuck is my specialty.
Gray Thing Spider Monster
Then I wish to hear your neck…snap!
Oh. Monsieur only joking! Yes? Wait, how many are you?
(She grabs at one of his many monster spider hands)
You can’t make up this kind of dialogue. I lived through it and so should you. But perhaps Danzig wanted these stories to lean into the silly “horror-porn” subgenre of a sub-genre. According to Wikipedia, one of his comic book stories was made into real porn, so maybe that’s why there are hints of it left in the dialogue. But then again, who knows?!? And is this monster porn? What is this supposed to be? I still don’t know!
The second story Change of Face, is about a stripper with a scarred face called “Mystery Girl,” played superbly by Rachel Alig (l love her) who cuts the faces off of women so that she can wear them — it’s Hannibal Lector if he were a stripper. There’s a wonderful scene where she comes sweeping in wearing a glorious black cape and black skull pasties, and I swear to god, I sat up on my sick bed couch and said: this is genius. It reminded me of Stripped to Kill, another cult classic, so that’s high praise indeed.
The third vignette was the least satisfying — it was a story (kind of?) about Elizabeth Bathory, the Countess of Blood. She was a real person in history, a rich noble, who tortured hundreds of women to death in the bowels of her castle. Read about her on Wikipedia, it’s some disturbing serial killer shit. She would bathe in virgin blood because she thought it made her look younger. But nothing much happens, she baths in blood and beheads a young woman. That’s it. Though seeing everyone stand outside in the cold during the beheading was odd. It had the feel of a Monthy Python sketch and I thought for a second that the head once removed from the body was going to sing.
The scenes are awkwardly shot, more so than in the first two segments though I liked the lighting in the first two stories and some of the set-ups, which isn’t getting much credit out there. There are some really cool shots and lighting in VEROTIKA. Everyone said it was terrible, but not everything about it is bad. For something to be so bad that it’s good, it has to be a little good too. It’s a weird line to hover but when it’s done right, it’s priceless.
Perhaps I’m analyzing this movie too closely? But it’s the horror genre’s The Room. It’s different from The Room though, it’s not as bad or as funny. If Danzig had acted the lead role in it, it may very well have surpassed The Room. I’m curious why Danzig didn’t star in it. We want to see him play the monster, we want to see him sing, we want to see him play the guitar with some cheap gore special effects. Why didn’t we get that? I want to see him play the lead detective and then break into a song while looking into the camera as smoke blows in rings around him.
Why didn’t Danzig write a movie about what it’s like to be Danzig? The punk star-fucking, the worship of annoying goth kids, the jokes about being dressed in black leather, the dreary ritual of touring every summer singing the same songs that you wrote in your twenties? That sounds like a modern-day psychological horror-comedy, I’d love to see that film. But we didn’t get that, we got spider sex six-man hands.
Despite these so-called flaws, VEROTIKA is a funny horror-comedy that’s destined to become a cult classic. Does it matter that it was intended to be a horror film and not a horror-comedy? I don’t think so. Some of the funniest moments in my dumb life have been unintentional. We can find comedy in the bleakest moments. The magic of comedy is that it is surprising — unexpected. Is VEROTIKA less worthwhile because the comedy was unintentional? I don’t think so, in fact, I find it even more meaningful and special.
Only a truly creative person could make something as bad as VEROTIKA. A dullard wouldn’t have the guts. Do stories need coherency to be good? For my taste, I’d argue, yes. And yet, there has to be room for weird shit, for movies that are more impressionistic than formulaic, for Art that doesn’t make sense. I’d rather watch a bad thing made with love than a mediocre thing made by a technician.
Lastly, VEROTIKA reminds me of Peter O’Toole’s Macbeth, performed in the ’80s at the old Vic, the prestigious London Theater. O’Toole, a stage actor and movie-star, wanted to be in a ‘bloody’ version of Macbeth, the ‘bloodiest version they’ve ever seen.’ O’Toole begged the theater for an inflatable set but he didn’t get it. What he did get was blood, a shit ton of it. They had so much blood on stage that actors were slipping and sliding in it which caused the audience to laugh. The audience thought it was a comedy instead of a drama.
When Peter O’Toole came out to give his great speech as Macbeth, covered in blood, the audience burst into laughter. They didn’t know what to make of all the blood or the irreverence. The critics tore the play to pieces calling it “MacDeath” and “Macflop” and said it was campy, rowdy but boring, bloody but bloodless, and disrespectful of the Bard to boot. They had to close for two nights because the theater received two bomb threats. To me, it sounds like a masterpiece.
VEROTIKA is the work of a legend like O’Toole’s Macbeth. It’s destined to become a classic and screened at movie houses at midnight in every city. There should always be cult films like VEROTIKA screened for young weirdos to discover: It brings film-geeks, freaks, mutants, never-belongs, horror fans, and outcasts together. VEROTIKA will stand forever. It’s horror, it’s comedy — it’s Danzig creating something fun. What could be wrong with that? VEROTIKA is now available to own on Blu-ray and VOD.
- [Fantasia 2020 Review] THE FOURTH WALL - August 30, 2020
- [Comic-Con@Home Panel Recap] SCARY GOOD TV: A CONVERSATION WITH HORROR’S TOP SHOWRUNNERS - August 3, 2020
- [Comic-Con@Home Panel Recap] Latin American Horror Cinema 2: Sometimes They Come Back - July 26, 2020