“Horror is like a serpent; always shedding its skin, always changing. And it will always come back. It can’t be hidden away like the guilty secrets we try to keep in our subconscious.” -Dario Argento
Verónica is a prime example of old material finding new tread. The story of teens gathering around a Ouija board and bringing about something evil is nothing new. But as this movie proves, it all depends on the execution.
One of the best kinds of horror themes is isolation, whether physical isolation often found in space horror or metaphorically isolated often found in stories of hauntings and demon possession. This is one of Verónica’s greatest strengths, its ability to not only isolate the main character despite being surrounded by family and friends, but it also isolates the audience as it follows this girl’s journey intimately. It forces you to empathize with her despite the extraordinary circumstances she finds herself in. She finds herself in dire need of help and no one believes her and that is a horror all its own.
This kind of horror is guaranteed to have the “bumps in the night” scene(s) where weird noises happen and things move and it always seems to occur at night. Again this is a trope we’ve seen countless times but if done correctly can still be effective. A great example of missing the target with this kind of scare tactic is the movie Crimson Peak. The entirety of this film is scene after scene of ghosts generally being creepy down long hallways when the characters are trying to sleep. The problem with this particular effort is the lack of variance from scene to scene. It feels as if each scene is the same as the one before it and this begins to drag an otherwise interesting premise down into the territory of bad movies. Sinister is a great example of this scare exercise done properly as each new night of frights even if only slightly still manages to differentiate between the numerous night scenes. I believe Verónica manages the proper amount of change from each scene creating a theme but not a repetition of monotony. There is a cohesive style but each new scary moment is fresh and unexpected.
Horror is no exception to the rule that character and story must come first. If a murderous psychopath is decapitating people I need to care about these people first before limbs are lopped off otherwise who gives a damn. Verónica strikes a balance between drama and horror that allows each to complement the other in a sort of tango of family tension and demonic possession. It’s a recipe and sometimes the final product can taste like dirt or it can taste like a perfectly cooked steak sizzling and ready to mingle.
In the first half of the film, the relationship between Verónica and her siblings is established as she is both older sister and substitute parent. This dynamic between being their older sister and being their supervisor is important as they are inevitably dragged into Verónica’s nightmare. Their trust in her must feel warranted so when shit begins to hit the proverbial fan their loyalty feels authentic. You can understand them sticking by her side even as their very safety becomes threatened. They cling to her when evil forces surround them and they band together when they must face the evil head on. The ending and its effectiveness is dependent on the validity of the first half of the story in which these siblings find their strength within each other.
The brilliance of the isolationism is when she pleads with her own mother for help and is met with nothing but disbelief and resentment. As her mother stands right before her she might as well be an ocean apart as her pleas fall on deaf ears. This creates great moments of hopelessness and anger which is something evil forces often feed on. Her dwindling condition both physically and mentally are the catalyst to the strength of her unwanted guest. You can feel her deterioration in the way she moves, in the way she looks at those closest to her and in the way she approaches each new obstacle in this demonic triathlon. Each new challenge chips away at her mental capacity allowing for more intense moments of sheer terror. She begins to give up even as she fights and this is her downfall if she can’t turn it around.
Verónica is a lot of old school horror tropes done right allowing it to skip the predictable nature of these steps despite their familiarity. With dramatic acting and slow building scares, this is one not to miss for any horror fan. Not reinventing the wheel isn’t necessarily a bad thing and Verónica isn’t exactly a new path into uncharted territory. Instead it focuses on taking what has worked in the past and improving upon it for a finished product of menacing tension and horrifying finality.
Rated TV-MA For: scary imagery, thematic elements, bloody violence
Runtime: 105 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Horror
Starring: Sandra Escacena, Bruna González, Claudia Placer, Iván Chavero
Directed By: Paco Plaza
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 3.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. It’s currently on Netflix.
Check out the trailer below:
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