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As there are close to 20 comic books in Verotik's catalog (some of which might be multiple stories themselves), it's only natural that Verotika take on the classic triptych format, with a character named Morella (Kayden Kross), whom two of the books are named after, "hosting" in between each of the film's three stories. We are introduced to Morella when the film, which starts with no fanfare whatsoever, opens on Morella and a woman we don't know. Morella proceeds to poke her eyeballs out with her press-on nails for no discernable reason, and then essentially winks at the audience. It is very hard not to look at this sequence as a mission statement of some kind, although it may not be the mission statement that Danzig intends.
After that, we're off to the races into the film's anthology segments, and, well, where to begin? It's a challenge determining what Verotika's most defining characteristic is, because it has so many vying for attention, but among the top three has to be that Danzig has managed to find almost an entire cast that absolutely cannot act. Scientists should study the film as a veritable museum of new ways to be wooden and unconvincing -- certainly, there are some approaches here that have never before been captured on film. Kross is arguably the only half-passable performer in the entire piece, which is probably why she was chosen to host the film. The first segment is also inexplicably set in France, so on top of the acting, everyone also adopts a Pepe le Pew-grade French accent to boot. For the performances alone, Verotika cements its place in infamy.
Once incredulousness at the performances wears off, incredulousness at the stories sets in -- or, perhaps, story-shaped, idea-like abstractions. The first segment has something to do with a riotously fake CGI spider which CGI transforms into a giant, vaguely-Wishmaster-esque spider-human who goes around being vaguely rapey and distinctly murdery toward a bunch of random women. His fate is linked (for reasons that were not fully clear) to an erotic model, who has a disfigurement that will not be revealed here but is absolutely insane and does not figure into the story in any way. In the second, a bunch of people who seem like the fake movie cops that would exist in the world of a fake cop movie investigate a serial killer who goes around cutting off people's faces. The piece alternates between face-cutting, fake cops doing fake cop business fakely, and 10-minute establishing shots of strip clubs so the viewer knows that the scene takes place in a strip club. One might ask why the face-cutting perpetrator bothers with face-cutting given the circumstances in which they wear the chopped off faces, but Verotika will not provide any answers. By the time the movie arrives at its third and final segment, Danzig seems to be tired of telling a story. Given how incoherent and incomprehensible the first two segments are, it's almost impressive that the closing story makes one long for the coherency and consistency of the first two. Most of this segment is devoted to a character bathing in blood, repeatedly.
When it comes to Danzig's talent as director, there's not much to say -- not because he's so bad but because so much of the movie fails to ascend above the point where one could discern a "technique." The photography looks cheap, with every location and set evoking that stark sense of reality that one gets from the "soap opera" look or a porn video, despite all the colored lighting that is blasted into each nook and cranny in an attempt to cover this up. The movie's gore effects (which might be the most competent thing in the movie) are often betrayed by Danzig's framing, which seem to almost intentionally find seams and flaws that pull back the curtain. Scenes last forever or fade out abruptly, zooms occur for no narrative reason, and techniques that might've worked (the attempt to extend a horseback riding scene) are destroyed by an absolute void of competence.
Perhaps the funniest joke, though, is that all of this adds up to an experience that is truly, genuinely unforgettable. Verotika is not good, and it's more bad and more good than "so-bad-it's-good" is able to capture. Verotika is an experience: go on the ride, or don't.
MVD brings Verotika home as a 3-disc combo pack, which includes the Blu-ray, DVD copy, and CD soundtrack in a cheap non-Viva Blu-ray case with a hefty hinge tray (which kept falling off its hinges for me, and which inspires a little nervousness when one tries to pull the Blu-ray or DVD discs from the grip of the tray's hubs). THe packaging is adorned with all sorts of wild, incomprenehsible images on the back, and a piece of painted artwork on the front, none of which are very informative. There is a matte cardboard slipcover around the case, featuring identical artwork.
The Video and Audio
Verotika is armed with a 2.39:1 1080p AVC transfer that represents the least outrageous thing on the disc. This is a perfectly run-of-the-mill affair, with bright colors, an unfortunate degree of clarity and detail (in terms of making the sets look cheap), and some noticeable banding when the film fades to black. A bit more outrageous, especially given Danzig is a musician and would presumably have more investment in the audio, is that the only two options on the disc are lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. In the 5.1 track's defense, the movie sounds fine, with a relatively run-of-the-mill attempt at surround and immersion. Still, it's a shame to see lossy audio on a Blu-ray disc. Same goes for the disc's lack of subtitles or captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, which should also be considered a basic, essential inclusion.
Although the packaging doesn't list any extras aside from the aforementioned CD soundtrack, there are two shrug-worthy extras on the disc: a slideshow, and the film's original theatrical trailer. For whatever reason (presumably to save the Blu-ray authoring studio a bit of time), the two sound options are offered under the special features menu.
On the packaging for Verotika, one of the quotes says the film is destined to become a cult classic. That's both optimistic and true: Verotika is stunningly bad, and completely and utterly unforgettable. It's a monument to guilessness, and I imagine most people will be astonished and anxious to show someone else the movie in equal measure. Rent it?
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