Rating:

“Veronica.  Veronica.  Veronica.”

Main Cast: Sandra Escacena

Director: Paco Plaza

veronica movie poster“The scariest horror film ever”? I wouldn’t go THAT far.

Veronica is a new horror film on Netflix, written and directed by Paco Plaza (Rec, Rec 2, Rec 3: Genesis) inspired by the case of Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro, an 18-year-old who died 6 months after playing with a Ouija board.

In this movie, Sandra Escacena plays 15-year-old Veronica, oldest of four children to her single mother in Madrid. On the day of a solar eclipse, while the rest of the school gathers outside to watch the event, Veronica and her friend Rosa, with Rosa’s new friend Diana in tow, sneak to the basement of the school to play with a Ouija board. Veronica hopes to contact her father who’s recently died.

Only, they don’t read the directions and are doing a poor job of controlling the séance. Things go awry as they are wont to do and Veronica passes out, leaving the session open because they neglected to say goodbye, which you are clearly supposed to do. Did they not watch that terrible Ouija movie with Olivia Cooke? Wait, this movie takes place in 1991, so that would be a no.

Okay, well, they were supposed to say goodbye, and they didn’t, and now something has attached itself to Veronica and followed her home where it will begin tormenting her over the next three nights, terrorizing and endangering her three younger siblings, twins Irene and Lucia, and brother Antonito.

When you look at it like that, Veronica’s really not got a whole lot going for it. The plot is familiar and the movie’s in Spanish, so there’s a lot of reading involved, which means you can’t watch this movie while doing anything else.

Then again, you probably won’t want to.

Because while the plot is nothing new, what Plaza does visually is a cut above all the other movies with similar storylines.

Paco Plaza is a very stylish director. This is based solely on having seen this film–I’d love to see the original Rec because I hear nothing but great things about it, I just haven’t done so yet. But based just on Veronica, yeah, he’s an excellent director.

The shots he manages to get here are nothing short of art. In one scene, we’re looking up at the apartment building Veronica’s family lives in and the camera rotates, making the angles of the building, from that POV, form an inverted cross.

In another, the class has been watching a slide show and at the end of the day, Veronica stops in the middle of the room and turns in such a way that the image of the sun is centered on her chest–an idea that will come into play later in the movie.

Plaza is also a very subtle storyteller. Throughout the movie, Veronica is plagued by nightmares and the next morning, her body shows signs of trauma as a result of those nightmares, but they’re never mentioned, except in one instance where she dreams her siblings are eating her alive and the next day when she sees Rosa, her friend notices a bite mark on Veronica’s hand.

It’s such a simple thing going on in the background of this story, just one more element, but he is content to just let it play out without calling constant attention to the battering Veronica is taking.

I loved the Veronica character and how real Escacena plays her. I believed she was the lonely older siblings, left to raise the younger kids while her mother ran a local restaurant and bar. I believed she spent most of her time isolated, taking what moments she could get to hang out with Rosa–until Rosa, who is obviously tired of trying to work around the constraints of Veronica’s home life, finds a new friend. And I felt Veronica’s heartbreak at watching this friendship dissolve while another one blossoms in front of her eyes and she’s left, once again, alone with nothing to do but keep raising her brother and sisters.

There’s so much at work here that’s NOT the main plot, that I feel a little let down that the plot that we’re supposed to be focusing on IS so mundane, as far as horror movies about the Ouija board are concerned.

And hearing it’s “based on actual events” doesn’t really help. MOST movies, when you think about it, could be “based on actual events.”

Changing Lanes with Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck could be based on actual events if you’ve ever been cut off in traffic. Falling Down with Michael Douglas could be based on actual events if you’ve ever gone into a fast food place looking for breakfast, but they stopped serving it ten minutes earlier and you got mad.

So saying a movie is based on actual events isn’t enough for me to look past the ho hum nature of the plot. Thank God this one had a director like Paco Plaza to take my mind off that fact until afterward and instead keep me entertained with shot after shot of visual perfection.

Well, that and hiring this newcomer who’d never starred in a movie before let alone carried one entirely on her own. I don’t watch a lot of Spanish movies, but if Escacena ever starts making English language movies I would be more inclined to watch, she’d be one to keep an eye on; she and Plaza made this movie and I can’t imagine it being as engrossing with anyone else in the lead.

Veronica is currently streaming on Netflix.

C. Dennis Moore is the author of over 60 published short stories and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. Most recent appearances were in the Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Become, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways anthologies. His novels are Revelations, and the Angel Hill stories, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, The Ghosts of Mertland and The Flip. He is writing another Angel Hill novel called Return to Angel Hill with co-author David Bain.