[Cinepocalypse] ‘VEROTIKA:’ WHY?

Rating: 0/4

Let it never be said Glenn Danzig does anything half-assed. From The Misfits, to Samhain, to Danzig, to his Verotik comic label, he goes all in with every fiber of his being (except when it comes showing up on time). He does similar in his debut film, Verotika, the first of “three totally self written and directed horror films,” according to his post film Q&A. Usually, in cases like this, passion projects can lean towards surprising magic or aggressive trash fire. Like the inimitable Tommy Wiseau, Danzig’s debut leans aggressively towards the latter. In his introduction to the film, he stated that in making Verotika he created a movie he and his friends wanted to see. But, honestly, why?

The film opens with an Elvira-esque narrator strolling into her dungeon to stab the eyes out of a hapless victim with her nails. Like all good late-night B-movie hosts, she opens and closes each of the three short films with a variety of props and themed puns. She is by far the best part of the film: A testament to a set of stories begging for any kind of order from anywhere. It’s unclear whether the comedy here is one hundred percent intentional, unlike the shorts that follow, but she genuinely tries her best with the awesomely cheesy role given to her.

The Albino Spider of Dajette, begins the surreal triplicate of shorts. Set in a version of France where exactly zero people speak French properly, much less with a clear accent, in it, we follow a woman (Ashley Wisdom) with eyeballs for nipples. When her nip-balls’ tears fall upon a white spider, she creates a mutated neck-breaking man-spider (Scotch Hopkins) who kills whenever she falls asleep.

Just as bananas as it sounds, between the makeup adorning the man-spider, forming scars in the shape of a stereotypical French mustache, and the strange garbled accents employed by a cast trying to pronounce, “Ze neck breakehr,” it is rife with unintentional comedy. Such disasters arrive fortuitously, as the barely there plot unravels due to confusing cuts ending with fade to blacks, making events happening within hours of each other feel like days or weeks apart.

Unlike The Albino Spider, Change of Face, the second short, offers a lot less to laugh at or even admire. Following a stripper, known only as ‘Mystery Girl’ (Rachel Alig), she hunts for faces of beautiful women to wear over her own disfigured face while she dances. Leaning into the sexploitation the Verotik comic brand became partially known for, around half of the short film is made up of extended, shockingly unsexy strip tease scenes from both Mystery Girl and the various dancers.

Crawling slow due to redundant and extended takes, dopey women trying not very hard to keep their faces on their face, some bumbling detectives, and the shakiest camera work in all the land make up the remainder of the short. You could have probably strapped a camera onto a chicken and it would have been more stable. In fact, even the final inexplicable gunshot wounds received by a principal character barely register versus the relief that we’ve been put out of our misery as well.

The final short: Drukija, Countess of Blood, is themed on Elizabeth Bathory, by way of a knock-off Queen Ravinia from the live action Snow White films. This segment too shared the same aggressive plotting problems as Change of Face, with a very, very extended blood bathing scene replacing strip teases.

Every short suffers from Danzig idolizing extended shots, out-of-frame compositions, and zooms (in-and-out) with little forethought. Often, such errors come way of a first-time director feeling as though they must “direct.” That is, the more camera movement the better. During his Q&A, Danzig described his background in photography. However, said grounding only instructs him to shoot frames, not shots. Frames disconnect when rounding narrative corners, shots string together.

During Drukija, the actress playing the contessa (Alice Haig) over acts so much that the scene starts out funny and gets more absurd and hilarious the longer and longer it goes on. Set in Eastern Europe, the accent problem rears its head once more, leading to such incredible pronunciations as “Veer-gan” and “Ver-gun” interchangeably whenever virgins are discussed. The shaky camera problem remains here, as does a full volley of ‘dripping-water’ from stock sound effects. The Tarantino-style arterial spray, that you can almost time to the button press by staff, sprays with the feeble arch of a public-park water fountain. The final short should have been enjoyable, but the audience fatigue from both nudity and over-the-top gore took out any impact or fun it may have had otherwise.

The most entertaining and enjoyable part of the Verotika experience (and yes, it was an experience) revolved around a wonderful crowd consoling each other in shared group empathy and bafflement. A late-night showing full of people for a magnificent unicorn of a trainwreck, it was the closest anyone could come in my mind to the experience of the audience in the first showing of The Room. And if social media is any indication, Verotika will join highest pantheon of fascinating cinematic disasters.

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