Glenn Danzig’s feature length directorial debut Verotika, which was culled from his own long running comic book imprint, brought a level of insanity rarely seen to the horror genre. It was a mix of Video Nasties Era Gore, 50’s camp and goth pinup cheesecake — that felt syphoned directly from the man’s ID and projected on screen. While some simply enjoyed using the film as an excuse to take potshots at the Misifts frontman, I personally thought they missed the point. Given Danzig’s well documented love for trash-cinema pioneer Ed Wood and his soft spot for psychotronic cinema, I felt the film was more homage by design rather than simply incompetence on his part as a filmmaker.
That in mind, Danzig has once again reached into the depths of his mind and delivered unto us the first Giallo vampire spaghetti western — Death Rider in the House of Vampires. The film has Glenn returning to directing, writing, starring and even cinematography duties with some of the same cast from his previous film and some new additions like Eli Roth, Danny Trejo and the Soska Sisters. I am here to tell you, if you dug that film, you’re going to love this. The film is the story of the mysterious vampire gunslinger Rider (Devon Sawa), who shows up at the ghost town vampire sanctuary that’s also brothel/bar/hotel ruled by Count Holiday. Forces begin to align against Rider as suspicions about his true motivations bring into question the nature of his visit.
While Death Rider is a step up for Danzig in terms of casting, overall quality production and special effects, he still hasn’t lost that spark that made Verotika what it was. The film looks much more polished and the gore/splatter effects are definitely an upgrade, but it’s Danzig who keeps the project grounded in his Wood-esque style whenever he’s in the driver seat. Takes tend to linger way past the point of comfort for both actors and audience alike and the camera also tends to linger on certain stars anatomy longer than others. Danzig also co-edited the film so this seems intentional as well. Even some of the actors who stumbled a bit on screen in Verotika, up the ante here with their takes on these larger than life characters. Sawa is surprisingly nuanced here as the gritty gunslinger and to be honest the other standout for me personally was Danzig, who was pretty damn impressive just chewing the scenery away as Bad Bathory.
My only real quip with Death Rider is the music and score, or lack there of. After Danzig channels Luis Bacalov for his own toe tapping Django-esque opening ballad to the Death Rider, the film goes long stretches without score or music. It’s a rough transition after setting that bar as high as he did those opening minutes. This has characters dancing onscreen to nothing at times but what sounds like a near muted temp track. It’s completely possible that this was intentional to balance the more polished film with Danzig’s cinematic language. Other than that the film has the director continuing to hone his craft while refusing to let the film betray singular vision.
Death Rider is another delirious dose of Danzig madness. It’s the kind of film that does it’s best work in a theatrical setting with an audience to appreciate it, much like Verotika where it leaves you wondering after the fact if it was some kind of shared hallucination. I will forever say that film never should have been released to home video, it some how robs it of its magic and the only way to see it would be yearly midnight screenings on Friday the 13th. While presenting a more polished production Death Rider thankfully keeps the awkwardness and charm that made Verotika special. While some will use this to once again tout Danzig’s ineptitude behind the camera, it’s safe to say they just don’t get it and this B-Movie Trashsterpiece is simply not for them. I personally can’t wait to see Danzig serves up next and until then, ride on Death Rider!!!!