Second Sight: Verónica (2018)

Manuel revisits Verónica

On June 15th 1991 at 1:35 am in the city of Madrid, Spain, the police answered an emergency call. What they found when they arrived at the scene was recorded on the official report, the only one in Spanish history to describe unexplainable paranormal activity.

Paco Plaza, one half of the team responsible for the REC saga (with Jaume Balagueró) takes the actual case of the death of a teenage girl associated with a Ouija session and goes back three days prior to the ill-fated events to try and recreate them through his lens.

Verónica (an amazing Sandra Escacena) is a fifteen-year-old girl that acts as the surrogate mother for her three small siblings, since, after the death of her father, to support the family, their mother works late hours and sleeps during the day. This setup throws Verónica into an unusual role for her age, which affects both the way she relates to her peers in school, as well as her mental and physical well-being.

With what is in essence a costumbrist portrait, Plaza offers a glimpse into the everyday life of a fractured family. His camera, always framing the events from Veronica’s point of view, makes us empathize with her. Slowly, we experience life through her gaze, as she moves oneirically from home to school, looking after her siblings, with “Héroes del Silencio” (the omnipresent soundtrack of her life) on her headphones, as the only, momentary, way of escaping her obligations and her lonesome reality.

Prior to the fateful Ouija session with her schoolmates, Veronica already displays a profound sadness. Escacena fills her character with melancholy; through beautiful eyes, she expresses her anxiety to be a “normal” teenager, just like the rest.

Blending the jobs of photography, editing and directing, Plaza masterfully creates the necessary naturalism to establish the events with a firm verisimilitude, from which he generates an atmosphere of escalating tension. His excellent and unexpected use of “Héroes del Silencio” as a soundscape solidifies the audience’s (especially Spanish speaking) connection with the film’s universe.

Though there are various, very, specific references to the works of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, the most evident influence is Polanski’s apartment trilogy. The ambiguity of what happens around Veronica, or inside her mind, as well as the apartment location, are reminiscent of Polanski’s female protagonists (including Trelkowsky) experience’s, as they descend slowly toward the madness of a private hell.

With infallible precision Plaza submerges us into Veronica’s numbness and subsequently in her absolute horror, as she finds herself surrounded by a dark universe that invades her life while she struggles to protect her small siblings.

It is the sublime performance of Escacena, which imbues the necessary quintessence to the film, that allows Plaza to communicate a genuine experience of dread, making Verónica one of the best releases of 2017 (2018 in the U.S.).

“No es la primera vez que me encuentro tan cerca de conocer la locura…” (It’s not the first time I find myself so close to madness…) - Heroés del Silencio

-Manuel Ríos Sarabia