Although it is not a Netflix production, Veronica is one of the newest films added to the streaming platform and it has everyone talking about it. Some are labelling the film as “the scariest film ever” – personally, I wouldn’t go as far but I will say one thing: it is a very good horror film! First of all, it is good to see a fresh horror film that isn’t just one jump scare after another, and it is good to watch a film that isn’t from the Hollywood circle – nothing wrong with Insidious, The Nun, The Conjuring, Annabelle, but Veronica proves that the characters don’t need to speak English to make a good film. Also, the mind behind this film is not new to the genre – Paco Plazza has directed REC in 2007 (before it became a Hollywood remake) and the film does not fail to deliver us suspense and fear.
Veronica is set in 1991, which is pleasantly portrayed by the use of Walkman’s and lack of internet, and it tells the story of – you guessed it – Veronica, a 15-year-old girl who uses an Ouija board with her friends to communicate with her dead father. Needless to say, things don’t go well for her and she manages to get through to an evil entity that is not her father.
The film packs the most common tropes of ghost-films: objects moving on their own? Check. Dream sequence that is not a dream sequence? Check. Weird elderly people? Check. So why is this film gaining such recognition? Well, I would say that not only Veronica is a possession/ghosts/horror film, but also it is a coming-of-age gone wrong. When Veronica goes back to the poorly lit basement where she and her friends played with the Ouija board, she is surprised by “Sister Death”, a blind nun of her school, that tells the protagonist that someone has answered her call and that now walks with her. The dialogue plays with the film and with our expectations as she uses a metaphor in her conversation and says that Veronica is old enough to understand what that means - thus, not only reminding Veronica that she is not a child, but remind us that the film is not straightforward, and in order to understand it, one must decipher the metaphor the film presents. In the same light, to mark the end of their conversation the school bell rings and the nun points out to Veronica that recess is over – meaning that play time is over and it is, indeed, time to grow up. The main character is a child – she may look old, act old, but for all biological purposes, she hasn’t crossed the barrier which makes her a woman, a.k.a she hasn’t had her period yet. However, she is forced to grow up after the death of her dad – she needs to help her mum with her three small siblings and, alongside school, it becomes a full-time commitment. Veronica doesn’t have time to go out with her friends and doesn’t have time to do things she enjoy, apart from listening to music before bed. Her friends start to ditch her and do “teenager stuff” without her, such as throwing parties, wearing too much mascara, smoking, dating, and because Veronica is unable to enjoy all of that, she starts resenting her siblings. It becomes more and more obvious that Veronica is blaming her siblings when she starts loosing her temper around them, and when she dreams that her siblings are biting her and slowly taking over and killing her. In addition to the extreme amount of times her mum tells her she needs to grow up, in another dream sequences a unknown voice tells her to grow up whilst putting their hand/claw upon her vagina and making her bleed, thus turning her into a proper adult.
After playing with the Ouija board, Veronica now has to protect her siblings from the evil entity that is after them – as if she didn’t have enough on her plate already. However, the film starts to twist our beliefs when Veronica pleads to her mum to stay overnight, saying that whenever she is around “he doesn’t come”, hence when there is the presence of an adult figure and Veronica is freed from her duties as a “parent”, the evil stays away. That is when the film starts to tell us that maybe she is the danger.
Veronica is constantly looking through windows – watching her teenage neighbours and their parents, and watching her friends start to date - envisioning a world she wants to be a part of but cannot enter. Moreover, she is constantly stopped and framed in between closed doors, reminding her one more time that she does not belong in that world and must stay inside her house taking care of her siblings. That is most obvious when Veronica arrives at her friend, Rosa’s, house to talk to her whilst she is having a party. The party guests try to block her way into the house, but she manages to enter it. She clearly does not fit in the scenario and is thrown out by two men, hence confirming once again her inadequacy.
Plazza’s is a good film – it has a strong and determined protagonist, and, unlike possession films, the haunted are not asking for help, instead they are helping themselves. Veronica owns up to her guilt and does the only logical thing to do – no matter the cost. Partly the cause of the success of the film is that it fed well into the “based on a real life story” marketing behind it, but the film is as real as Texas Chain Saw Massacre – and Plazza himself admitted: the film is loosely based on a case that happened in Madrid in 1991, that became known for being the only police case to involve a paranormal occurrence. Nevertheless, real or not, it is worth the viewing!