Netflix Exclusive Veronica (2018) is a Well Made, but is Not the Scariest Ever
Director: Paco Plaza
Screenplay: Paco Plaza
It is very hard to make a good Possession/Ouija Board movie anymore. There have been so many since The Exorcist hit theaters 45 years ago that almost every possible variation of the story has been done. The other problem is that The Exorcist is so good at what it did nothing was really going to measure up, including its own sequels. So during the Toronto Film Festival last year when Fangoria and other horror related sights looked kindly on a Spanish film called Veronica, directed by Paco Plaza of REC fame, I figured I might want to see it when it came to home video (sadly, foreign films don’t generally get released outside big cities in America unless they have a chance at an Oscar). The rights were sold to Netflix and on February 26th, Veronica debuted. It quickly gained a reputation as the scariest ever… a reputation started by Netflix, and that’s why we’re here. I watched it on release day and thought it was good but nothing to write home about, maybe I should give it another try. So when my planned another Netflix exclusive film, The Outsider, fell through because that movie can go F@%$ itself, I revisited Veronica to see if my opinion could change.
On a rainy night in Madrid in 1991, police are brought to an apartment complex by a frantic emergency call. Once inside they discover something horrible and unexplainable has happened to 15 year old Veronica. We then flash back to few days prior when Veronica and her friends hold a séance during an eclipse so that Veronica might contact her recently deceased father. But something goes wrong and Veronica and her three siblings start to experience the strange phenomena that will lead to the tragedy we already know of.
Did the movie hold up? Yes, I believe it’s still a pretty good movie. Is it one of the scariest ever? Not by a long shot. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is very well made and I was pleasantly surprised by how beautifully Paco Plaza can frame a shot outside of the found footage genre, but when everything in this movie has been done before, it’s hard to get scared. Plaza does an excellent job of building tension and paying it off, but I doubt anyone ran from the theaters or their own living rooms like when The Exorcist came out. However, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a story doesn’t have to be all original as long as it’s told well, as it is here. A small list of tropes you’ll find: a family member messing with a Ouija Board to contact a loved one, an old blind religious figure that knows more about the spirit world than she lets on, beginning with a frantic 911 call a la Devil Inside, the mother is always working so Veronica and the kids are left frequently alone and vulnerable, and more. The thing is, all of those are done well enough that they didn’t bother me like other movies might have.
I think what makes this movie work the most is that the actress who plays Veronica, and the character herself, are so likable and sympathetic. Yes, doing some stupid things led to her predicament, but grief can lead us to do stupid things. Once she realizes what’s going on she never stops trying to find a way to fight what is happening to her and she goes out of the way to keep her siblings from harm. It’s the way Sandra Escacena plays this that brings it to life, out of her depth but determined.
While you won’t be scared by this movie, there are some really tense moments and it is completely worth a watch if you are a horror fan.