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VEROTIKA (2019))

Directed by Glenn Danzig
Written by Glenn Danzig
Starring Ashley Wisdom, Rachel Alig, Alice Tate, Kayden Kross, Scotch Hopkins, Sean Kanan, Natalia Borowsky, Emma Gradin, Aaliyah Hadid, Paul Vandervort

Watching VEROTIKA gives me a new kind of appreciation for Rob Zombie. Even though Zombie has his hang-ups, at least he knows the basics of filmmaking. This can’t be said for rockstar turned comic book writer turned filmmaker Glenn Danzig. The singer rose to stardom as the lead singer of the Misfits and Samhain, but really broke out with his own band Danzig. The short-statured rocker has since been meme-worthy in his more recent years, getting knocked out by a fan who he started a brawl with backstage and being photographed carrying bags of groceries and kitty litter home from the store. At one time, Danzig belted out the notes while tossing his hair back and forth on stage to scores of cheering crowds, but those fans are a fickle bunch and many of them laugh rather than bang their head to him these days. While he will always be a star to hard rockers everywhere, his ego seems to have made him a bit of a joke.

In the 90’s, Danzig put out a line of comic books called VEROTIK COMICS. I bought them. They were exploitative and badly written. They looked cool, if I remember them correctly with art from some notable artists, but they were indicative of the shallow bad girl style that was popular in that era. Thirty years later, Danzig is releasing his directorial debut—an anthology based on the characters that starred in his comics. Acting as writer and director, Danzig also provided music, acted as DP, and executively produced VEROTIKA.

If I am being kind, I would say that Danzig just bit off more than he can chew with the size and scope of the film. Everything looks as if it were filmed on a sound stage. The writing is barebones and poorly delivered by non-actors cast mainly for looks and willingness to get naked rather than talent. I am not a prude. I love schlock, but usually even in the schlockiest of films, there is something interesting. A beat in the story. A fun kill. An actor that stands out. A joy that can be felt beyond what is shown on screen. Just one idea can win me over for a film. But Danzig not only delivers something that barely can be categorized as a film, but every frame lacks soul and passion for the schlock it embraces. It’s as if Danzig is so worried about being seen as cool that he forgets that somehow, some way, he has to make us care about what is on screen and he fails at it in every installment of this anthology.

The wraparound focuses on a character called Morella (played by Karden Kross). She serves as our Crypt Keeper coldly delivering lines that are neither clever or funny. It is here that a reoccurring fault is revealed—Danzig lingers his camera for way too long in almost every scene. It is during these lingerings that it is apparent that the actors have no idea what to do or say. I lost count at how many times this happens during the span of VEROTIKA. One good thing is that at least there is some kind of connecting tissue to this anthology, as many anthologies don’t even have that. Danzig takes advantage of these segments to squeeze in another half-naked woman and does little else with the character.

The first segment, entitled “The Albino Spider of Dajette,” starts with the line “Your teets are looking at me!” It was at this point where I was hoping I had stumbled upon the goth version of THE ROOM (a comparison that has been raised by some of the more forgiving of reviewers of this film). It’s a story about a deformed model named Dajette (Ashley Wisdom) who has eyeballs for nipples. When a lover spurns her, a tear falls from Dajette’s nipple onto an albino spider passing below, turning it into a man-monster with six arms that enacts vengeance on those around her when she falls asleep. Dajette attempts to stay awake in order to keep her friends from falling victim to this monster. While this may sound awesome, the segment is anything but. All of the actresses either don’t know how to speak English, are horrible at their fake French accents, or are simply bad actors—sadly I think it’s all three. The writing is uninspired and feels like a rejected A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET pitch. And the climax, if you can call it that, simply lacks the power to make me care about anyone. Sure the actors are all gorgeous, especially the pouty lipped Wisdom. Danzig definitely seems to have a type and it’s not a bad one. But I’ve seen better acting in Skinemax after hours flicks. This was the best segment of the bunch, unfortunately.

The second tale, “Change of Face,” is a threadbare plotted serial killer story about a scarred stripper who steals the faces from her victims and wears them on stage. While there is some kind of potential here to have it appear that a woman reported dead is later stripping on stage, this detail is never even used. Mystery Woman kills and skins a few people, almost gets caught by the cops, and then shows up in the same stripper bar with a different name at the end. I wouldn’t call that a story, but Danzig apparently does. I think Danzig was trying to pay homage to EYES WITHOUT A FACE, given the design of the killer’s facemask, but the similarities are only superficial. This segment seems to be there only to feature some truly horrible songs by Danzig and some of his friends during about five overlong stripping sequences. And this is some bad, bad music which is included with the DVD/BluRay set, if for some reason, you are interested.

“Drukija Contessa of Blood” is the final segment that again functions to show more scantily clad women de-clothed, tortured, and covered in blood. Again, these aren’t bad things. They are just presented in the most lifeless fashion with flat camera work, scenes that drone on forever in desperate need of an edit, and a story that simply repeats the same type of scene a few times before the segment ends. The story, if you want to call it that, focuses on Drukija, a Bathory-style countess who bates and drinks the blood of virgins in order to stay powerful. Again, this segment doesn’t have any conflict or resolution at all. It simply presents things and then moves on to the same type of scene next. It’s more of a presentation of a character doing the same thing about three or four times.

I hate being this negative with my reviews, but here, I just can’t find much to be positive about VEROTIKA. Filmmaker James Cullen Bressack helped produce this film. Bressack has proven to be a deft and talented director of low budget films with a strong sense of story and a good amount of suspense and scares. One would think with him in the producer’s chair, he might have been able to advise and guide Danzig to help him make these segments into stories and this collection of images into an actual film. It looks like Danzig’s ego, his own worst enemy, may have gotten in the way again as it did with his previous band endeavors. Additionally, someone might want to let him know that in this day and age, one might want to give his actresses something other than model, stripper, sacrifice, or hooker as a profession. You know, make them characters and not simply props with implants and tattoos. The rocker is a lifelong horror fan and plans on doing a horror western next. Here’s hoping he gets some serious storytelling and filmmaking help for his next venture. This one was a chore to get through. VEROTIKA may be something to play in the background at a goth bar, but I wouldn’t wish this film with the sound on to anyone.