Reviews Verónica (I) (2017)
Paco Plaza took the horror genre by storm with the Rec. series (remade in English as Quarantine) and he’s back to do it all over again with Veronica.
The plot is fairly generic for horror, and is based on a true story, which means nothing to anyone except the marketing team. But Veronica’s success lies not in its originality but in its masterful execution. Foreign movies often miss out on the blockbuster budgets that their American counterparts are privileged with. But the producers have spared no expense with Veronica.
It’s rare that movies are named after their protagonists. It would be easy to draw comparisons with Stephen King’s Carrie, but there is a clear reason. Veronica is not a lens through which the story is viewed. She is the movie: her past, her fears, and her insecurities. The narrative delves deep into her character, not separately from the horror but within it. Another easy comparison to draw is with The Babadook. Veronica is not as focused, but it explores death in a more introspective way than most. Combined with more focalised cinematography, the central characterisation is second-to- none.
Characterisation aside, Veronica is still a horror movie, and it rarely strays from its genre conventions, which is fine. Originality isn’t always good. There are excellent movies such as this, which excellently execute the tried and tested genre conventions. It’s a clear trend, though so many ignore it, that deep, resonant narrative make more successful movies. This year’s IT (see our review here) is a perfect example of this, breaking box office records.
At its core, Veronica is a story about a teenage girl who has lost her father. And with her mother working overtime, she struggles with the weight of the family on her own shoulders. The manifestations of horror within the movie emanate from this same source, which is what IT does. And which works incredibly well. Characterisation and terror inform each other. We relate to Veronica all the more for the horror she experiences. And conversely, the horror becomes more terrifying itself because we care about Veronica and understand her.
The horror is in your face. Vivid and loud. Not only is the sound design incredible, but the music boasts an original mix of conventional eerie scoring and synthesised 80s soundtracks. The acting and writing are flawless. It’s a thrilling, euphoric, and cathartic ride. The only thing I didn’t care for was the whole ‘true story’ element. In particular, the movie already had a great ending, which was succeeded by another scene, which served only to emphasise the ‘true story’ aspect of the movie.
I only watched this because I saw a news article saying this was “the scariest film ever”. It’s not. It’s just the same old tired bags of tricks. A Ouija board. An unconvincing shadowy ghost. Dream sequences that are so obviously dreams it’s laughable. A girl’s body being contorted into strange positions. Over-the-top music. Loud sound effects signposting jump scares. It’s all been done a thousand times before.
When it comes to scary movies, the 1970s still reign supreme. The Exorcist. The Omen. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Alien. At least the directors of these movies knew how to create oppressive, foreboding atmospheres that chill the spine. Verónica? It barely generates a frisson of fear.