There’s a fine line between horror and comedy. One person’s fear can be another’s joke. Sort of like when Homer Simpson tells Mel Brooks he loved Young Frankenstein. “Scared the hell out of me!” By extension, a movie eliciting the exact opposite response from the intention of the filmmakers can lead to a cult phenomenon. This is already evident in rock icon Glenn Danzig’s feature film debut: Verotika.
While I enjoy Danzig’s music, I never really followed his career and only learned that the film was adapted on a comic book series of the same name that Danzig created, so I went in as blind as possible. And it’s a good thing I did because the film sucker-punched me like a brick from the heavens. Verotika is a horror anthology split into three tales of terror. Before the film, Danzig made a brief introduction, citing inspiration from the likes of Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath. Which made sense as the film went on with a clearly Euro influence. The story begins with the devilish Morella gouging out the eyes of a beautiful blonde bound in her basement before the titles drop. It’s a strong start that goes immediately downhill.
The three vignettes of Verotika aren’t necessarily stories. Things happen, but story structure, if any, is limited. It could almost be considered arthouse if it wasn’t actually trying to tell these stories. The first, “The Albino Spider of Dajette” follows the titular Dajette in her native France (with every character speaking English with French accents) who after being rejected by another man because of her deformity, namely eyes growing on her breasts, cries. From her breasts. The tears mutate a white spider into a hulking six-armed brute (also with an accent) who becomes obsessed with Dajette and kills people she secretly doesn’t like… or people in general. Under the serial killer moniker of ‘The Neckbreaker.’
Next comes “Change of Face” where a serial killer woman stalks the city of angels, ripping off the faces of beautiful women so she can collect them and wear them at her job as a stripper. The police are baffled and curse frequently. Lastly, there’s “Drukija Contessa of Blood”, a more traditional Euro horror story following the evil contessa, Drukija as she collects ample virgins form the countryside so she may bathe in their blood.
With the exception of the first story, these tales of Verotika have no real endings and very little drive. There’s murders, nudity, sex, and sleaze, but not in a fashion that can be structured. We’re looking into the mind and Id of Danzig and it looks exactly like the comic books. The acting is silly and jumps between over the top ham to dull surprise even in reaction to mutilation. The pacing jumps from frantic cuts to glacier slow focuses on everything from tantalizing women to a handful of grapes. Perhaps one of the most poignant moments in the movie is Contessa Drukija bonding with a wolf over some spare virgin meat.
Verotika is a vision in that it’s exactly the kind of movie the creator wanted to make and it gives us insight into their process. One that is borderline incomprehensible to anyone else. This is a film destined for cult attraction. I all but guarantee Verotika will be populating midnight screenings when it officially comes out in October. This is a crowd movie, one that elicits riffs, laughter, ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’. This will be a movie people bond over. Time will tell how mainstream audiences will react, but if history has taught us anything it’s to never underestimate a weird movie’s resonance with the public.
*Jacob Davison originally wrote this review in June 2019.