You don’t have to love Glenn Danzig’s music (The Misfits, Samhain, Danzig) to enjoy his public persona, though it probably helps. There was the picture of Danzig buying kitty litter. There was the story about the pile of bricks he had in his yard, infuriating his neighbors, which I’m proud to see resurface and make the internet rounds every few years. The beauty of Danzig is that you can juxtapose an evil goth punk with virtually any mundane situation and it will always be funny.
Glenn made his feature directorial debut last year with Verotika. It premiered at a Chicago’s Cinepocalypse genre festival screening, to which Danzig himself was 40 minutes late. Now it’s available to rent (or buy!) on Amazon Prime.
The first thing you should know about Verotika is that it’s a film adaptation of Glenn’s own comic book, Verotik. Verotik was reportedly named for “a portmanteau created by Danzig from the words ‘violent’ and ‘erotic.'” Ah, that explains it.
If you flip on Verotika and wonder why it looks so much like a porno, it’s probably partly because it’s already been one (Danzig’s comic inspired 2006’s Grub Girl, starring Brittney Sky, Charmaine Star, Teanna Kai, Eva Angelina, and GiGi). And also because it stars exclusively women who either are, or look extremely like, porn stars.
I would love to say that however bad you’re thinking Verotika is, it’s worse, but it’s hard to know what “bad” means when you’re discussing a Glenn Danzig film. Certainly, the sets are cheap, the acting is atrocious, the construction inept, and the stories laughable, but this is, after all, a guy who named his record company after a movie directed by famously inept filmmaker Ed Wood and released many songs that sound like he just set one of his B-movie posters to music — as exemplified by “Return of the Fly” (a song that, like many of his songs, kicks ass, for what it’s worth). That being said, I don’t believe Danzig has ever done anything deliberately for laughs. Thus, it seems unlikely that laughs were his goal here (the same is mostly true of True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, for what that’s worth).
Verotika consists of a series of vignettes, Tales From The Crypt-style, introduced by an Elvira-esque hostess named Morella (Kayden Kross) who refers to us as “my darklings.” Morella introduces herself by gorily gouging out a bound woman’s eyes while the woman begs and shrieks. Then she presents the first segment: “The Albino Spider Of Dajette.”
This one opens with two extremely porny-looking actors making out on an extremely porny-looking set (the couch has a cover over it, as if they had to shoot this quick before mom came home). The woman (Ashley Wisdom, possibly Danzig’s girlfriend) wears a hot pink pixie wig, and they both speak in wildly inconsistent French accents, because this vignette is supposed to be set in Paris. When the male character finally gets the female character’s shirt off, we see that her mondo bazooms (the casting director’s description, I assume) have eyeballs instead of nipples! tWiStED!
“Your tits, zey are looking at me!” the man sputters. “Oh no, not again!” the woman groans.
This is basically all of Verotika in a nutshell — a series of violent rape fantasies with child-like, Scooby-Doo dialogue and a heavy dose of the surreal.
The man flees the apartment, and the woman’s boob eyes begin to cry. She lactates a tear that falls onto a rose, where the titular albino spider has been hiding. When the tear hits the hastily CG’d spider, he grows, into a man-sized spider (Scotch Hopkins), an evil creature who looks basically like Mudvayne meets Doyle from the Misfits plus six fake arms. It is him! Zee Albino Spider of Dajette! (Dajette was the pink wig lady).
This spider, it turns out, is a creature of Dajette’s subconscious. He’s unleashed every time she falls asleep, to act out all of Dajette’s deepest, most eeeevil desires. Dajette goes to a porn theater in an attempt to stay awake (a dubious decision?). The “Parisian porn theater” clearly says “Los Angeles” on the marquee — something I could actually imagine a Parisian porn theater possibly having — but the bigger issue is that it has bars over the entrance, indicating that it was definitely closed when Verotika shot at this location. Inside, Dajette keeps dozing off, even as the male patrons start to molest her. Elsewhere in the city, the man-spider goes out to play. He goes to prostitute row (where else) and hides behind a column while he talks to a prostitute. She asks if he wants a date. He responds Frenchly, referring to alternately as “amour” and “mon cher,” that “first I want to f*** you in the a**.”
“Monsieur has good eyes,” she responds. “A** f*** is my specialty.”
After that he shocks her by saying that next he wants to snap her neck.
Violent? Definitely. Erotic? Eh, I’m not sure being sodomized by a giant spider and then killed quite qualifies as erotic, but maybe it could be in a much subtler narrator’s hands.
Soon, as local news reports tell us, Paris police are chasing a serial woman killer known as “Le Neckbreaker,” a nickname that is second only to the police’s uniforms in comedic value.
If all the vignettes were as inspired as Dajette’s breast-fed, dream-manifested giant man-spider, Verotika would be an instant classic. Instead, it falls somewhere between The Room and a Danzig video — comedically amateurish and full of pathos, but not so singular that it entirely achieves the sublime.
The next vignette, “A Change Of Face” is about a disfigured stripper who cuts off other women’s faces. Rachel Alig plays “Mystery Girl,” a stripper who performs in a Mortal Kombat-style hood cloak and with skull pasties over her breasts. This is presumably “erotic,” according to Glenn, who shoots a full five minutes of strippers dancing at the strip club to fully immerse us in the setting before Mystery Girl even shows up. In fact, the dancing scenes go on so long that at first you’re not sure whether they’re meant to be part of the story. Throughout, the soundtrack, composed by Danzig, is weirdly pretty good.
Danzig goes onto use a series of zooms throughout this story, virtually none of which seem to hit their intended target. The shots just sort of meander around people’s faces before dissolving, which isn’t quite as funny as the face removal effects. There’s one where Mystery Girl’s face knife looks suspiciously like a paintbrush tracing red watercolor around her victim’s face.
The final story, “Drukija Contessa of Blood,” is a play on the Countess of Bathory that trades the bad French accents of “Dajette” for bad pseudo-Slavic ones, where “virgin” is pronounced “VER-gen,” with a hard G, over and over. This one is so light on actual story that Drukija (Alice Tate) vamps around mirrors for minutes at a time in takes so long they seem like Tim & Eric bits. You wonder whether Glenn intended this or if he simply turned his footage over to an editor who correctly realized that comedy would be Verotika‘s chief draw and cut it for maximum WTF appeal. It’s first funny, then tedious, and then the tedium itself becomes the joke.
As if often the case with Danzig, one of the most fascinating parts of Verotika is wondering whether Danzig actually thought this was scary, or dark, or… you know, “erotic.” If he aspires to Ed Wood-level schlock, is this considered a success? It seems somehow inept even as it strives for ineptitude-as-aesthetic. It seems a little “America is a land of contrasts” to say, but there truly is no one quite like Glenn Danzig. He’s a musical savant, a goth Tommy Wiseau, Corey Feldman, and a modern-day Andy Kaufman all rolled into one.