FILM FACTORY ENTERTAINMENT (2018)
Director: Paco Plaza
Starring: Sandra Escacena, Bruna González, Claudia Placer, Iván Chavero, Ana Torrent, Consuelo Trujillo, Ángela Fabián, Carla Campra
There were two things that drew me towards Veronica – Paco Plaza and the cries that this was one of the “scariest movies of all time”.
Well, it isn’t the latter but it is definitely very creepy and Señor Scare delivers a tight, atmospheric horror movie (very) loosely based on true events from back in 1991. The helmer of one of the movies that truly made me shovel my pants out after watching (that would be [REC]), Plaza has developed a real understanding of what brings fear and Veronica is the latest movie to prove this point.
Madrid, 1991. Since the death of her father, fifteen-year-old Veronica (Escacena) spends every day taking care of her three younger siblings whilst her mother works every hour God gives in order to support them. A rare solar eclipse is due and the entire school that Veronica and family attend will be there to witness it – that is except Veronica and her friends Rosa (Fabián) and Diana (Campra). Legend has it that an eclipse is the ideal time to summon spirits of the dead, so what better time to hold a séance in the dark school basement? Attempting to contact her father, Veronica unwittingly summons something much worse – and things only become more malevolent and terrifying over the course of the next few days.
It’s fair to say that Veronica really boasts nothing that hasn’t been seen before, however, this feels fresher and on a higher level than recent offerings for a variety of reasons – acting, atmosphere and momentum to name but a few. Plaza has crafted a focused horror story loosely drawing from the 1991 Vallecas Case – the first ever case in Spanish police history where paranormal activity was listed on the official report as having been witnessed by an officer – and the knowledge that somewhere in this grungy, isolated fright flick are (potentially) elements of truth only helps proceedings. It’s not the scariest movie of all time as it has been called (I’d wager it isn’t the scariest movie by Plaza himself) but there’s more than enough in the imagery and story to keep you away from the ouija boards for a bit longer.
Newcomer Sandra Escacena is excellent in the titular role, bringing a real sense of vulnerability and desperation to her performance and as the lead protagonist, it’s easy to get behind her. The young actors surrounding her are all very good (young Iván Chavero is great in his big specs) and Consuelo Trujillo is creepy as anything playing Sister Death.
The movie opens with a sensationally effective introductory scene that sets up the entire movie – mixing 911 police recordings with frantic footage of police cars racing to an apartment block, not only is the story quickly established but the tone and atmosphere too. As the movie continues on, the momentum increases with it with Plaza opting less for jump scares and more for efficient imagery and ‘moments’. There are scares aplenty, especially the first real encounter with evil after the eclipse involving Veronica’s father, so horror fans should find enough here to satiate themselves. There are also minimal sprinklings of Plaza’s trademark humour with the séance version of the Centella advert jingle, but never enough to derail the story. It’s not quite [REC]3 level (though that would class as a guilty pleasure). There were certain moments that didn’t work, generally involving groping evil hands, but for the most part the creepiness was just right.
Opting for another Spanish apartment setting, there’s a familiar look at times to Veronica. It’s dark and gloomy at times, reflecting the mood, and claustrophobic at others. These moments are interspersed with scenes in Veronica’s mother’s workplace complete with excited Rayo Vallecano fans, allowing for a slight respite from the ramping tension. I wasn’t overly enamoured by the score, though. At times it seemed to fit the scenes whilst at others it almost seemed at odds with what was occurring.
Blending a throttling atmosphere with a good story, Veronica is a creepy and compelling horror movie that will have you checking around the house before bed – y’know, in case of EVIL. A return to the claustrophobic horror of his earlier flicks, Plaza delivers a high-class horror adventure that is great/estupendo in any language.
March 18th 2018