This week I checked out Veronica (Paco Plaza, 2017) on Netflix. I had not seen any trailers prior to my watching and had only the Netlix blurb to go on, however I am a big fan of Plaza’s previous works Rec (2007) and Rec 2 (2009) so I settled in for what I hoped to be a real good ‘scarefest’. What was delivered was something a little less then that. This article will contain some spoilers!
The basic premise of the film is that Veronica and her chums decide to do a Ouija board in their schools creepy basement on the day of an eclipse. Sounds like a really bad idea doesn’t it? And guess what? Yes it was! Veronica ends up in a trance, which rightly so freaks her pals out, the board breaks, and later (once she has recovered from the trance) she tries to go on with her life but is plagued by sinister goings on that threaten her young siblings.
I will start with the aspects of the film that I did enjoy; the visuals. Something you would have expected to see more of throughout Veronica is Plaza’s love for “found footage” however this was not the case. Instead we were gifted with some striking imagery and really well thought out visuals. The attention to detail for the time period (1991) is excellent. Veronica’s friends have the big hair and the short pleated school skirts that remind us of so many, happier, 90’s High School rom-coms and we see her little brother the adorable Antonito rocking many a shell-suit!
Plaza’s imagery really creates a sense of unease from a seemingly innocent setting.a good example of this is the apartment the family all live in. We see that it is not the biggest or the flashiest, but the apartment is made up of many doors with long corridors. It feels in part almost maze-like. I found myself asking a few times whether she was even still in the same property! Whilst there is no immediate danger in the early scenes the apartment itself, with it’s dark corners and strange layout, sets us off with a sense of unease.
Another really stand out visual for me was the scene in which the eclipse takes place. The school children are all watching the eclipse through photograph negatives (something I did not know worked so thanks Paco!), coupled with the girls doing the Ouija board in the basement and the creepy blind nun and you have a scene that sticks in your mind. You are waiting and waiting for something horrifying to happen to one of the children; that maybe the Nun (kindly dubbed Sister Death) will turn out to be the one possessed and go on a rampage, or that something horrible will kick off with the girls. It turns out to be the latter option but we are never really told why and this for me is where it all starts to miss its mark.
We never find out the answers to many of the questions this film poses. Why is Veronica possessed? Where is her dad? Is he dead? Who is this blind nun and why can she see these creatures too? How has she gotten so old while seeing them and not gone mad/been hunted as violently as Veronica? If she did a Ouija board and got possesed forever why not tell the other girls as a warning story? What does it have to do with the Eclipse? These were but a few of my questions left over at the end of this film and they aren’t left unanswered in a way that feels enigmatic; they are just left.
At the end of the film we learn it is based on “True Events” which years ago would have really had me on edge, but the horror market has been so over staturated with “true story” films that this no longer holds any real meaning to me. On looking into this “true story” I found the information relating to the case of Estefania Gutierrez Lazaro. The police reports outline instances of demonic activity within Estefania’s home: stained mattresses; opening and closing cupboards; outbursts and ‘demonic’ episodes etc. If this information is to be believed (don’t forget kids, don’t believe everything you read) then Plaza has taken that unexplainable incident and given it artistic liscene and new life…. but still does not fill in the blanks. It is as though he took the main elements: young girl, 90’s, ouija board, signs of possesion in the home, outbursts and episodes and put them on screen, but left out the storyline surrounding the events themselves and it’s those elements that I want to know more about!
We also never learn who/what it is that is possessing her, which seems like quite a vital aspect of a possession horror movie…. maybe that is just me. I want to know the motive behind whatever creature it is, because it is a creature. Although it appeared once as her dad (…naked) it also appeared to her afterward as this spooky black alien-like creature with pincery hands, which was decidedly LESS terrifying then her naked Dad. The idea of the spirit of her Dad coming and haunting them brings us so many questions, was it a wrongful death? Was she involved in someway? But after that moment it’s just back to spooky alien face so that theory goes back in the closet.
Veronica leaves me with nothing but questions and not in a good way. I came to this film with high hopes because of Rec but landed with a bit of a bump. You can’t fault Plaza’s imagery and visuals, they are ominous and bleak, and the performances by the young actors and actresses are fantastic. However the storyline does leave you a bit cold. For me a good horror should stay with you, have you peeking from behind a cushion and maybe give you nightmares. Veronica did not deliver for me and if you chose to watch this film because of all the hype surrounding it, well maybe prepare yourself for disappointment!
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