Review Day 17: Verónica (2017)
Spanish filmmaker Paco Plaza may be best known for his film REC (2007) and it’s two sequels, but 10 years after he unleashed that film he gave us Verónica (2017) a film that made waves on Netflix and became known as one of the scariest films ever. REC itself was an intense thrill ride and did something new for the time with the ‘found footage’ genre, Verónica is also an intense ride but for different reasons. Taking some tropes that have become a little tired and doing something very new with them, expanding on true events (like The Conjuring films) make this an effective and emotional ride.
Verónica (Sandra Escacena) is a 15 year old girl on the verge of adulthood, she looks after her younger siblings Lucía (Bruna González), Irene (Claudia Placer) and Antoñito (Iván Chavero) as their mother Ana (Ana Torrent) works all hours running a bar to support the family after the death of their father. On the day of an eclipse while at school, Verónica and her two friends Rosa (Ángela Fabiá) and Diana (Carla Campra) sneak away in the basement and use an Ouija board to try and contact Verónica’s father but something else gets unleashed. Verónica begins to experience strange and scary events, that also come after her siblings, able to see/sense something terrible has happened, blind Nun known as ‘Sister Death’ (Consuelo Trujillo) tells Verónica she has to protect her family from this darkness.
The film begins at the end of the story, with a desperate call to emergency services and police arriving on the scene, it then goes back to three days earlier. We are told this is based on a true story (it is) and are introduced to Verónica and her family. The set up leaves the audience with the knowledge that things will escalate in the film and that leaves a wave of unease as we get to know Verónica and her family. The use of the Ouija board for summoning something horrible is very much a usual trope with supernatural/paranormal horror, and the way it gets used here does make it different. The board breaks during the first use, and Verónica tries to use methods she found with the Occult papers that came with the board but it is of no use. What has been unleashed goes beyond religious rituals and symbolism to get rid of. This in itself felt very fresh, there are no Priests trying to exercise demons, instead Sister Death who has experienced this gives her warnings.
The entire experience is unsettling from start to finish, the use of clever visuals and sounds feel like something is creeping up and it can’t just be brushed off. It is easy to see how the film got the reputation for being one of the scariest films, while that is subjective it does have it’s moments. There is also some intriguing metaphors mixed in with the film, which is funny to think about as Sister Death gives a speech to Verónica about metaphors. With Verónica being 15 she is on the verge of becoming an adult, unable to really be a kid anymore due to taking care of her siblings, but not having experienced getting her first period. She is experiencing something that no one her age really should be, and this subtext really comes through strong.
This film has some incredible performances led by Sandra Escacena as Verónica, she is essentially in almost every scene in the film and carries it like a champion. Without such a strong led and performance the film would have suffered, but she managed to do everything possible to make Verónica a very real character and someone that the audience could be behind. The three child actors are excellent and come off very natural, especially Iván Chavero as Antoñito the youngest of the trio. They all felt like a strong bonded little family, and that aspect needed to be that way or again the film would have suffered. The other notable performance comes from Consuelo Trujillo as Sister Death, not only is she memorable for her scenes but she made every second of screen time count, her scenes with Sandra Escacena are some of the best in the film.
While personally Verónica may not be the scariest film of all time, it is a damn fine film that leaves a lasting impression. Paco Plaza has proved once again to be a strong name with the genre, and it is a great addition to Spain’s horror filmography, which continues to be incredibly impressive and has many films worth checking out.
Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea