Spanish horror Veronica is the latest film to find itself lumbered with the “scariest film evah!” hype, which makes it even odder that it's just been unceremoniously dumped on Netflix with no hint of a cinema release. So is the latest from [REC] director Paco Plaza any good? Some mild spoilers ahead (clearly marked).
Sandra Escacena stars as the title character, a 15 year old living in Madrid in 1991. Her father recently passed away and her mother works long hours to keep the family afloat, meaning that Vero (as she is usually called throughout) has to look after her twin younger sisters and even younger little brother.
On the day of a total solar eclipse, Vero and her friends sneak off to a spooky bunker (I assume all Madrid schools have one) to use a ouija board, apparently not realising that they're in a horror film. Such antics have been the catalyst for films ranging from stone classics like “The Exorcist” to stone cold shit feasts with extra dollops of shit sauce like “The Ouija Experiment” and sure enough things turn spooktacular right at the height of the eclipse. Back at the family home, stuff starts going horribly wrong quite fast, with bad dreams, strange claw marks, odd noises and all sorts of regulation ghost story shenanigans going down.
“Veronica” doesn't have much in the way of original ideas, but it does have some effective moments. Scares tend toward the subtle (at least at first) and Plaza has a good eye for spooky little details (there's an early scene where a shadowy figure is just hanging around in the background with no attention drawn to it whatsoever, which is something I always like). There are a few odd touches which stand out, like the idea that the eclipse is responsible for the demonic incursion or the weird blind nun at the school (which I choose to believe is a “take that!” to “The Devil Inside”). It can also create some tension when it feels like it, such as a late scene with a rolling glass. It is much more heart pounding than it sounds.
But then the above scene ends with a crappy special effect jump scare (albeit one less loud than usual), the type of which a horror fan will have seen a hundred times before. The big bad is also distinctly underwhelming, even if it does give off an air of genuine malevolence.
SOME SPOILERS FROM HERE ON
The film also does a weird have it's cake and eat it thing where it tries the whole ambiguous “is it real or just in the main character's head” trope. Again, this is something the average horror fan has seen so often it's basically a cliché, but Plaza then seems to answer the question fairly definitively a few minutes later. It's an odd choice and one that does deflate the climax somewhat.
“Veronica” is not a bad film, it's just not a particularly good one either. It's anchored by a great performance from Escacena and some non-irritating child actors, who ensure that you don't want these people to get hurt. Plaza gives a few good moments, but undercuts them with boring cliches and scares that fall flat.
So it's far from being “the scariest film ever”. It may satisfy those who are less attuned to the genre as a sort of starter spook film, but for us horror aficionados it's not going to do much - 5