Released Feb. 26, 2018
Language: Spanish (Spain)
Unrated (equal to rated R for violence, nudity, thematic elements, imagery, and language) – 1hr 45min
Directed by Paco Plaza
Starring Sandra Escacena, Bruna González, Claudia Placer, Iván Chavero
The year is 1991 and 15-year-old Veronica, after the death of her father, is spending most all her time taking care of her 3 younger siblings as their mother spends nearly every waking hour waitressing to pay the bills. Missing her dad, she arranges a séance with a Ouija board and two friends at school during a lunar eclipse to contact him. Things go badly.
A fairly typical demonic haunting/possession flick that wisely avoids the excessively overused exorcism bits. There’s some family and coming-of-age drama contained throughout, but it’s definitely secondary to the horror elements.
Somehow, some way, Veronica got branded with the reputation of ‘the scariest horror film of all-time’. I don’t know if it was courtesy of the marketing minds at Netflix, some kind of social media phenomenon, or the first astutely influencing the latter, but that’s literally the upmost level of hype that a genre film can generate. It really should come as no surprise at all that the movie does not live up to that lofty label, and it was never truly fair to attach it in the first place.
So, as a result, Veronica is a manufactured disappointment, yet that’s not to be mistaken for being a bad film. It’s well-made, well-acted, and honestly, quite creepy. It’s a fully acceptable piece of slow-burn demonic horror. There are a number of effective sequences that raise the action in measured increments – depicting the growing strength of the encroaching entity as it wreaks havoc on the young girl’s home, life, and mind. Sandra Escacena does a fine job portraying the title character as a nuanced person with some genuine depth, which helps to inject a vital dose of levity to the otherwise fantastical proceedings while Bruna González, Claudia Placer, and Iván Chavero all contribute as the rambunctious and increasingly endangered siblings. Veronica is at its best when set in the family’s apartment, as it has a legitimate sense of place which aids in building the tension and terror.
The story likes to wander away from it though, and those scenes largely fail to add much value. Consuelo Trujillo plays an excellent character – a blind and elderly chain-smoking nun with an attitude that the schoolkids have nicknamed ‘Sister Death’. She steals the movie when she’s in it, but unfortunately, her sole purpose is to serve as an info dump and her inclusion in the plot amounts to little more than a novelty. There’s also exposition on Veronica’s troubled social life and increasing isolation that likewise put a drag on the pace and pad the runtime. The film seriously lagged as the second act struggled somewhat to set up the climactic confrontation, and while that climax offers up some genuine thrills, it also showcases some of the same dubious decision-making that initially put Veronica in this unfortunate situation. Once the end credits roll, there is a noticeable amount of the film’s earlier potential remaining on the table.
Is Veronica the scariest of all-time? It’s not even close. It’s not even the scariest this year or of director Paco Plaza’s filmography, but it does make an interesting companion piece to his co-directed masterwork, [Rec], which shares some thematic parallels and would make for an intriguing shared narrative universe. As it’s ‘based on a true story’, I don’t believe there was any intention of such a thing, but still a neat thought. As such, the film may very well possess the ability to terrify younger, more casual, and less discerning viewers, but has little of anything new or noteworthy to offer more seasoned fans of the horror genre.
Veronica gets a rating of