This format is a shorter, more to the point, off-shot of the normal review/op-eds I normally do. A ranking will be given at the end from a scale that starts at (from the lowest to the highest): Bad – meh – fine – good – great. Anything not appropriate for these “scores” will likely warrant a more in-depth discussion, which is what I normally do, so this range does not cover all movies, just the ones that I think are suited to this format.
November is my favorite month of the year for simple reasons: My birthday is in November, so is for a lot of my friends and family members, and it is the best time to get under a blanket, get a bucket of ice cream, and watch some scary movies!! Maybe it’s the Halloween/Día des los Muertos spirit, or the chilly weather, but I’m always down for some good scares especially in this period of the year. A movie that provides some really good scares that I don’t see a lot of people discussing (for good reason) is Veronica (2017) by Paco Plaza, director/writer of Rec 1-3. The good reason that not a lot of people are aware of it, is that it looks and seems like every other haunted house movie out there, but it is certainly not that; Veronica oozes with style and substance and despite some meaningful drawbacks, still does enough for any horror fan to enjoy themselves.
I actually saw this movie recently, even though I was aware of it and the pedigree behind it for around a year, which should inform you on how generic the premise of the movie is; basically, Veronica is based on an actual case (called Valecas in Spain due to the area) and police report, but as always with movies this claim should be taken with a pinch of salt, and it is about a young girl playing with an Ouija board with a couple of her friends and then being haunted by other worldly creatures. Not exactly a ground breaking premise, but with Plaza at the helm, it doesn’t need to be. As a huge fan of the Rec series, he brings so much style and prowess to a project that his movie always seem to get the best of both worlds (style and substance); clearly inspired by the uneasiness of nostalgia that It follows, but always bringing a more naturalistic and mundane sensibility to it, Veronica is very stylish, which is why it is a worthwhile movie – it is in a crowded pool, but wearing a stylish bathing suit that makes it stand out for all the right reasons.
Beyond that, Plaza never forgets the golden rule of a good horror movie: It is never about the scary monsters haunting someone, but about someone being haunted. Veronica’s premise is about a teen girl being haunted by scary ghosts, but what the movie is actually about is a teen girl growing up without a father, being asked to become an adult before she has the chance to be a teen, haunted by all the responsibilities imposed on her by necessity or absence of anyone more suitable, all the while not having anyone to listen to her or being able to simply run away from it all. For all the criticisms I have of the movie for later on, its biggest strength does revolve around the protagonist and how much focus is placed on making her the center of the movie; besides the excellent characterization and appropriate writing, Veronica is brought to life by an excellent performance from Sandra Escacena. She is believably sad and disheartened by how her life turned out, she is believably desperate that having a séance is not out of character for her, yet regretful that her actions may lead harm to the few people that matter to her. Long story short, it is an impressive performance that carries the movie, alongside some exceptional child performances. Furthermore, it all comes together with a fast-paced story that lasts around 3 days, which help create this brisk pace and a foreboding feeling of speeding towards an inevitable evil.
However, while most of the movie comes together extremely well, there are some missteps, mainly the music; again, clearly inspired by the synth sounds of It follows where it worked wonders there, the synth soundtrack for Veronica only distract and confuse as they have no relevance or thematic cohesion with what is going on in the movie. To worsen this even more, the movie does use its soundtrack a fair bit, which does take me out of the experience whenever it is used. Beyond the soundtrack, my main other criticism is the double-edged knife I mentioned before; although Veronica is centered around its main protagonist, when the stakes need to rise and the movie asks us to care about other characters as well, then it just doesn’t have the same impact because we know so little about them or actively care about them (I did care but only because Veronica did, which is not as powerful). As an extension, character side plots are not as well concluded or explored, and are almost abandoned halfway through, in order to set up and execute the finale.
Despite these missteps, Veronica is a GREAT and underrated movie; it’s not Plaza’s best work, and it won’t blow away expectations and conventions from haunted house horror fans, but it will definitely entertain and satisfy them with some quality, entertaining scares with some excellent stylish horror movie making.