I’ll say one thing about Verotika, shock rocker Glenn Danzig’s batshit insane anthology horror flick: it proves how crude and ultimately useless star rating systems are. I shudder (and this thing is on Shudder, by the way) at the thought of trying to quantify such a film. It’s a complete mess: badly written, appallingly acted, hobbled by shoddy special effects work and a budget clearly in the tens of dollars, and directed with absolutely no understanding of the language of film. So, for the blue noses: one star. Avoid at all costs.
But it’s also a singular, fearless act of creation. This is Danzig’s id writ large, unfettered by anything besides resources and actual skill: a gory, porny, sleazy trawl through the gutter of its creator’s fevered imagination. There’s value in that, even if only academically. The most twisted melons can yield the headiest pulp. So, if you’re in the mood to watch someone spill their weirdest fantasies across the screen without the slightest fuck given in regards to how anyone else might react? Five stars. The last time we got something wilder than this was 2017’s The Evil Within, which was completed after its crackhead auteur went to his final reward.
So, it’s three stories, linked by horror host Morella (porn star Kayden Kross), who we first meet gouging the eyes from a bound and helpless hottie, which immediately sets our expectations as to what’s to follow. The first, “The Albino Spider of Dajette”, sees the titular big-breasted damsel, who has eyes where her nipples ought to be, accidentally conjure – you guessed it! – an anthropomorphic white spider who proceeds to hunt and murder a succession of similarly pneumatic babes. The second, “Change of Face”, sees a murderous stripper (Rachel Alig) relieving other sexy women of their faces (look, 90% of the female cast were chosen for attributes other than their acting chops. It’s not me, it’s Glenn). The third, “Drujika Contessa of Blood” is a riff on the old Elizabeth Bathory story wherein a depraved noblewoman (Alice Haig) retains her youth and beauty by bathing in the blood of virgins, with all the sadistic, sapphic “erotica” that the Bathory legend normally evokes, and then some, albeit firmly from the male gaze.
“Story” might be too strong a word to apply to these offerings, on reflection. Things just kind of happen and then happen and then happen, with a lot of blood and shock-for-shock’s-sake posturing; the albino spider tells a streetwalker victim that he wants to fuck her up the ass before hearing her neck snap, then foregoes the buggery and jumps straight to murder, and that’s about the most memorable bit of dialogue in the entire enterprise. It’s also fairly indicative of the “It’s not a phase, mum!” gleefully offensive, grimdark tone Danzig is going for. It might actually be offensive if it was in any way competent, but the whole thing is such an amateur hour production that it becomes merely laughable. The old Misfits mainstay is clearly striving for horror auteur status à la Clive Barker or at least Rob Zombie, but manages to rate somewhere closer to Ed Wood’s vicinity – how ironic, then, that he once named his record label Plan 9.
Still, you have to admire the man’s chutzpah. It’s a rare bird that can take this big a swing, get this big a miss, and still hold his head high. A second’s self-reflection and this thing would have been shelved next to Jerry Lewis’s The Day the Clown Cried as an unreleasable hubristic folly. Instead, we get to enjoy it beamed right into our living rooms. And here’s the thing: from the right angle, it is an enjoyable experience, in a what-the-Christ-did-I-just-watch? kind of way. And, to be fair, some of the lighting choices are reminiscent of Dario Argento’s more OTT colour schemes, so you can always drop that observation into the inevitable commentary as you and your buddies mercilessly rip strips off this mess. I can only hope that within a couple of years this thing goes full audience participation midnight movie, if only to see what weird group rituals it inspires.