'Verotika' Review: This isn't for your eyes

Glenn Danzig's 'Verotika' is a horror anthology abomination with less value than a 3AM Skinemax headliner.

Some bloody stuff from 'Verotika.'
(Image: © Shudder)

What to Watch Verdict

'Verotika' proves that just because a film is legendarily atrocious, doesn't mean it's "so bad it's good." Sometimes, most of the times, bad is just bad.


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    🕷️ The blood bath statue?


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    🕷️ Horrendous effects.

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    🕷️ Inept storytelling.

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    🕷️ Unsightly editing.

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    🕷️ Ugly camera work.

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    🕷️ Cringe-worthy performances.

I can’t believe we live in a world where Cats will be immortalized through endless cult screenings, yet Verotika won’t indulge a legacy past, well, whenever it leaves Shudder. It’s one man’s - Glenn Danzig’s - voyeuristic excuse to resurrect perv-out cinema under the guise of “erotic midnighter thrills.” Bafflingly amateur across all technical fronts, no cult value worth faking. Without hesitation, I’m confident dubbing Verotika one of the worst “films,” if that definition even fits, that this shock-horror seeker has endured since my critical career kickstarted. It's icky, incompetent, and irredeemable. An ode to “trashterpieces” that should have stayed on comic pages where Danzig couldn’t hack these narratives into a gobsmacking mess of cinematic worthlessness.

Overall, Verotika seems to be crafted by creatives whose only movie watching experiences is softcore porn on a guerilla budget. Performances emphasize the cup sizes of actresses first, line delivery second. Editing cuts are either hilariously premature, catching actors as they’re gearing up to force unconvincing dialogue out of their mouths, or awkwardly abrupt, before characters even notice they’re in frame. The sound design has no qualms over stopping songs mid-crescendo to keep pace with a changing scene, as guitar riffs slam into a wall of silence without a moment’s notice. No, it’s not “so bad it’s good.” It’s so bad it’s embarrassing, as even something like Trolls 2 or The Room samples a unique flicker of magic that retains even a sliver of narrative justice. Verotika makes Tommy Wiseau look like Ingmar Bergman in comparison.

Let’s start with the first segment since this is a horror anthology, after all. "The Albino Spider of Dajette" stars Ashley Wisdom as Dajette, in a horrendous pink party wig, who keeps scaring away potential mates because her breasts have eyeballs where nipples should be. An albino spider, which could have been animated better by a Fiverr freelancer with a $10-per-hour rate, turns into a man-sized monster with six arms and starts murdering Dajette’s acquaintances. Mr. Albino Man-Arachnid (Scotch Hopkins), a hilariously slapdash costume with rubber, dangling arms attached to the actor’s body, becomes known as “Neckbreaker.” There’s a lot of groping, whether it’s spider-man forcibly caressing Dajette or random nudie movie theater patrons who fondle a sleeping Dajette. Yuck.

Do the albino creature’s prosthetic shortcomings generate a laugh via visuals? Exquisitely. Is the budget to blame? Presumably. Does that excuse graphics work that wouldn’t even pass on the original Playstation console, or head-scratcher editing botches, or Wisdom’s droning out-loud internal monologue? No shot. Verotika begins with a bang when Dajette’s optical boobies are exposed within minutes, but even that’s after an awkwardly long make-out duration sans sexiness, just Dajette’s boy-toy continually ignoring her requests to leave her shirt on. Then a few women die and, oh joy, our first tale closes before any worthwhile point crawls from the darkness. Still, "The Albino Spider of Dajette" is, somehow, the film's most competent segment (first place in a dirt-eating contest, congratulations).

Next up is “Change Of Face,” about a stripper named Mystery Girl (Rachel Alig) who steals faces by peeling someone’s skin back like Leatherface. She’s pursued by a beat detective who presumably stumbles onto set after his Law & Order audition, playing in the utterly wrong movie. Mystery Girl hits the town, steals a new “mask,” then it’s back to the pole in her black skull pasties and hooded cape. Her signature choreography that makes the dollars rain? Twirling her wardrobe in circles while flailing wildly, as Danzig’s original score, which sounds like an algorithm spit out the most generic on-the-spot “party rock” lyrics imaginable, sets the tone. Poorly.

Cinematographer David Newbert tailspins out of control with his employment of zoom focuses on actor’s faces. We’re talking fifteen-second holds as characters maintain their scrunchy, hard-thinky mugs while the camera pulls in and out without self-awareness. If there was any point to this segment, any deeper meaning to Mystery Girl’s gruesome collection, there might be a reason to celebrate the effects shots after what looks like facial restoration masks peel from muscle tissue gore. 

The shallowness and frustrating pointlessness of Verotika becomes apparent when this chapter concludes after three elongated strip dances and zero payoffs as to Mystery Girl’s motivations, her lawman pursuer’s hunt, or the necessitation of any god-forsaken importance. At least wrestling fans will score a quick cameo laugh when they recognize Sean Waltman, aka X-Pac, as the illustrious “Counter Person” at Mystery Girl’s strip joint, for a brief second of desperately-needed serotonin excitement.

Last is "Drukija Contessa of Blood,” starring Alice Tate as Drukija, who requires virgins for her medieval bathing ritual (or virginity is just a bonus, maybe). A peasant woman (Caroline Williams) sells her daughter to Drukija thinking her kin will live a pampered castle lifestyle, but instead, dearest Contessa fills her custom skeletal torture rack bathtub with the juices spilled from her collected harem. We watch Tate submerge herself in this shallow kiddie pool filled with blood, as she splashes about, rubbing sanguine spillage over her figure with this incredulous look like she keeps forgetting where she is, or what blood feels like against her skin. Then when she exits the tub and cleans herself? Yup, right back to another torture chamber where she drinks someone else’s blood, and the cycle starts anew.

Nah. Big-time, full-send, from start-to-finish, Nah.

Verotika is a grossly unrewarding chore that, sure, we’ll say attempts to honor old-school European horror that’s sultry and erotic. I don’t believe that myself, but it’s the only aim worth suggesting. Even the wraparound’s host - a hooded, lusty devil played by Kayden Kross - whiffs on providing any stabilizing structure beyond an ill-placed "joke" between shorts. Glenn Danzig’s comic series illustrates violence, sexuality, and gratuity that’s translated to screen without an iota of care paid to the art of filmmaking. Given my history and a plethora of tweets defending “garbage” titles that’ve either been forgotten or ignored, Verotika should be my thing. Let me drive this point home one last time: it doesn’t even qualify as a possible drinking game watch. You’d have to blackout so early to avoid enduring even a single skeevy millisecond in sobriety, rules would come with a surgeon general’s warning. 

Verotika hits Shudder September 24th. 

Matt Donato

Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.