New Horror Releases: Verónica (2018) - Reviewed

Possession horror films came into fashion in 1973 with The Exorcist and have remained popular since, especially recently with the buoy of box office smashes The Conjuring, it’s same name sequel, and the Ouija franchise. Like the Conjuring films (and, honestly, countless others), Paco Plaza’s newest offering, Verónica, comes with a “based on a true story” claim. Possession horror films claiming "true stories" are so common nowadays that something extra is needed to set them apart from the pack of look-alikes clogging theaters and Netflix. Plaza's strong aesthetic choices and the chilling cinematography of Verónica make it a clear and impressive standout.

The titular Verónica, affectionately known to friends and family as Vero, is a high school freshman tasked with taking care of her three younger siblings. She is on a mission to connect with her father, which would be sweet and heartwarming if her father hadn’t passed away several years earlier. Things quickly go from bad to hair-raising after a misguided attempt to contact him with a Ouija board, and metaphors for the perils and horrors of growing up begin to take shape in the form of sinister spirits stalking Vero and her adorable siblings.

Working from the extremely well-composed script by Plaza and Fernando Navarro, newcomer Sandra Escacena is dazzlingly believable as Vero. Her performance works so well that it elevates her exceptionally cast young co-stars and gives a richness, warmth and depth to the family dynamic presented, which, in turn, makes the bumps in the night more sinister, and the scares scarier.

A successful combination of digital and practical effects is key in the fright fest that becomes the second half of the film. The building sense of dread begins with the strange and slightly ominous findings, then soars with the reveal of the actual beings preying upon the family. Style is often the make-or-break factor in genre films, especially horror. Much like with his brilliant previous film [REC], Plaza displays a clear mastery of the genre, taking what could have been a run of the mill possession movie and elevating it to a little piece of art. 

Verónica may not set any records for the originality of its premise, but with the guidance of Plaza, the strength of its effects, and the goldmine of young talent he cast in his film, it succeeds as a pretty damn horrifying tale. The idea that it happened in real life might even make it a little harder to sleep at night after watching it, if you buy into that sort of gimmick. 

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-Josie Stec