Sandra Escacena, Bruna González, Claudia Placer, Iván Chavero, Ana Torrent
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…makes you wonder who the hell said this was the scariest film ever made.
Known for his work on the Rec series, in Veronica director Paco Plaza turns his attention to the story of the titular fifteen year old, played by newcomer Sandra Escacena. After dabbling with a Ouija Board during a solar eclipse, Veronica summons something that follows her back home and duly terrorises the teenager and her younger siblings (although not the other teenage participants who also used the Ouija Board, which seems odd). With their mother working late at night in a cafe, the fatherless children are left to their own devices, and Veronica as the eldest is responsible for making sure that the day-to-day of family life flows as it should.
Conceptually the idea of children stranded in an apartment in Madrid with an unknown monstrous entity should be enough to spark a real sense of claustrophobic horror. Two of the most unnerving films made transform the humble European flat into a true nightmare – Repulsion (1965) and The Tenant (1976, both directed by Roman Polanski) find sinister shadows, scary neighbours, and narratives of bleak psychological horror in every inch of heavily populated inner city buildings. Sadly Veronica appears to eschew the real potentials for terror, and while the film could have explored the alone-in-the-city feeling of the apartment, it never really pushes the vulnerability of the protagonists as much as it could.
Instead, the movie relies on more conventional jump scares and comparatively unsurprising narrative twists. While the presence of a chain-smoking, blind nun known to the school children as Sister Death locates the film in the dogma of religion, the sister warns that through her actions Veronica has forgone the world of God – “God has got nothing to do with it. Leave Him out of it” – but the ramifications (and implicit horrors) of such theological and metaphysical debates, especially in a genre which spawned films such as The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), are never fully explored.
The film has been heavily promoted as the ‘scariest film ever’, but that seems remarkable considering what a grab-bag of cliches it is. According to the closing credits (and much online chatter) the film is based on real events, but a cursory glance at news sources suggests that the film is perhaps a loose adaptation inspired by the story of Estefania Gutierrez Lazaro, who died in a hospital several months after playing with a Ouija Board and after experiencing “seizures and hallucinations”. In Veronica the youthful cast deliver effective performances, but despite this, and an undoubted understanding of the genre by the filmmakers, the film never reaches anything like genuine fear. In the final eventuality, the horror of a teenager struggling to protect her younger siblings in a world devoid of adult protection, and seemingly abandoned to evil, should make the viewer experience terror, instead it makes you wonder who the hell said this was the scariest film ever made.