Film Review: Verónica

Paco Plaza’s Verónica is a by-the-numbers demonic possession horror that boasts good production values but little in the way of originality.

Teenager Verónica must look after her siblings whilst her mother works. When she and two school friends play with a Ouija board, there are unwanted consequences…

Taking place over a three-day period, Verónica is a demonic possession horror loosely based on a real police case. The catalyst for supernatural events is a ouija board game that goes wrong; in this sense, it similar to a number of other horror movies. The film is set up with a brief segment from the finale which reveals little about the events. It then begins from the day of the fateful game.

Protagonist Verónica is a sympathetic character. Having to look after her younger siblings whilst their mother works long hours, it is easy to feel for the teenage girl. As events progress, it is clear the supernatural activities speak to her fears of responsibility and her relationship with her mother. Director and co-writer Paco Plaza plays with these ideas so that they are overt at times, but do not overwhelm the narrative.

Various conventions are present in the film. The familiar horror tropes such as the absent parents, the creepy sage who imparts knowledge, and the nightmare sequences all play their role. There are a number of tense scenes, but the film never really terrifies. One thing Plaza does well is not expend the tension before the film’s climax. This results in one of the better recent finales in this sub-genre.

The special effects are good throughout. The film makes the most of the lighting, and sound design is also effective. Performances from the young cast are great. Sandra Escacena is believable, whilst the younger children act well both as natural siblings and in the film’s scarier scenes. They are aided by a decent script.

Verónica is an amply entertaining picture, but one that lacks an original slant.

Verónica is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

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