REVIEW: Veronica

Ayak Bullen reviews Netflix’s latest horror offering, Veronica.

Australian Rated: MA15+ 

Genre: Horror 

Director: Paco Plaza  

Written By: Paco Plaza, Fernando Navarro  

Duration: 105 minutes 

Spanish film director Paco Plaza, best known for writing and directing REC and REC 2, shook the world when he released Veronica on Netflix without warning. At a time when streaming services are competing for eyeballs, originals such as Stranger ThingsHouse of CardsRiverdaleBright, and now Veronica has certainly been a great addition to the list of why you should subscribe to Netflix.  

The fact that this horror movie is based on a true story makes it almost unbearable. But not too unbearable to stop me from watching. 

The film focuses on 15-year-old Veronica, who has been taking care of her little brother and sisters since the death of their father. On one school day, the whole school goes to the roof to watch a solar eclipse. Veronica and her best friend, along with another girl, sneak to the dimly-lit basement of her Catholic school in order to hold a séance and conjure her father’s spirit. Because that’s not scary enough, they use a ouija board (creeeeepy!). At the very peak of the solar eclipse the ouija board breaks in two and Vero, as she is known in the movie, enters some kind of trance. Rather than her father’s spirit, what she connects with is actually far more menacing; Vero is chosen and becomes the accidental vessel of a spiteful spirit, commencing the beginning of an unnerving, long event of continuous supernatural occurrences. 

The movie may have lacked a think-about-it-for-the-rest-of-the-day-type of ending, but Plaza’s detail on the use of imagery certainly shone through and left a lasting impression – from the flickering candles to the full roof top of school kids apocalyptically watching the solar eclipse using film negatives (adding that part gave a realistic sense to how a solar eclipse is meant to be watched).   

Have you ever watched a scary movie in a different language? The fact that you need to read the subtitles and can’t take your eyes off the screen made it scarier. And saying words like “demonic spirit” in English are scary enough but saying them in Spanish, “Espiritu Demoniaco”, is like asking to be possessed.

The first spine-chilling scene happens in the basement, of course, when it’s made clear that the demon is now in Vero. Her mouth isn’t just opened wide as she lets out an almost unbearable screech, it’s widened so much as to turn it into a very unnatural maw, dramatised by her metal braces scraping against her teeth. Similar effects have been used before in movies like The Grudge and Origin of Evil, when demon possession is characterised by facial contortions. If that’s not your thing, or you think it is but you can’t get through this first scene, walk away! This movie is not for you. 

Did I mention there are children involved? Paco Plaza played dirty with this one. If there’s one thing I hate in a scary movie it is children. For some reason they make it ten times worse, bringing to life the term “little devil”. But the amazing child performances added a strong quality to the film, lessening the movie’s overall lack of finesse.

It’s evident that Veronica is neither a masterpiece nor life changing film but nevertheless it is very entertaining and worth the watch.  

If this movie tells you nothing else, at best you’ll learn that if you ever find yourself in a dark basement with a ouija board, burn that shit. That’s best left to the stuff of movies. – Ayak Bullen