Starring: Sandra Escacena, Bruna González, Claudia Placer
Director: Paco Plaza
Running Time: 105 mins
Verónica is a Spanish film about a teenage girl who begins experiencing a series of dark supernatural forces after a game of Ouija during a solar eclipse.
Dubbed by some as the scariest film ever made, and sweeping through the internet as a cult horror tucked away on Netflix, Verónica has undoubtedly caught the eyes of many in recent weeks. Now, while I definitely don’t think it deserves the level of plaudits it has received for its fear factor (it really isn’t that scary), it is still a tense and engaging watch that manages to overcome some of the problems that the modern supernatural horror genre often faces.
Let’s start off with the fact that this really isn’t my favourite genre. Having tried on countless occasions, supernatural horror is the one genre that I’ve never been able to get into over the course of watching 2,081 films, and it seems that Verónica proves the same case, failing to ever bring much fear or genuine terror to the table in what is clearly meant to be a both terrifying and traumatising film.
However, the fact that it’s not scary doesn’t mean that all is lost, because the one thing that Verónica does manage to do well is create a palpable atmosphere of tension and unease throughout. Its opening act in particular does a fantastic job at contrasting the light of the real world and the darkness of the evil spirits brewing below the surface, grabbing your attention immediately in a way that many horror films struggle to do.
The balance between all-out horror and real-world drama and tension is also pretty good throughout, with arguably a little more leaning towards the real-world events than the haunted house stuff. The opening and middle acts paint the character of Verónica well, a seemingly normal teenager with lots of responsibilities, a few buried demons and now facing a journey into adulthood, and that alone is enough to keep you engrossed in the dramatic side of the story, all the while working well to gradually increase the tension throughout.
The only issue comes in the form of the film’s final act, which is, for lack of a better word, formulaic. While the film does a great job at forgoing the typical horror pitfalls by crafting an engrossing dramatic story alongside the genre tropes, the finale takes an enormous step backwards as it falls into a messy, overly drawn-out and gloomy horror extravaganza, failing to ever match the depth or intrigue of the previous two acts.
If you’re a big horror fan and you’ve been fully captivated by the story from the very beginning, the final act may have a bit more of a kick for you, but for those more casual genre viewers, the generic finale is a big let down after what had been an impressively tense and engrossing first half of the film, and the fact that there’s nothing particularly scary about it either makes it even less of an exciting climax.
Overall, I had mixed feelings about Verónica. On the one hand, director Paco Plaza does a good job at balancing horror and tense drama for the majority of the runtime, and it proves an overall more captivating watch than the majority of modern supernatural horror films, but its failure to avoid falling back into a formulaic horror finale makes it an ultimately disappointing and underwhelming watch, which is why I’m giving it a 7.5.