I got sucked in by the trailer, by the hype, and I really should have known better. Veronica is billed by almost everyone as being so scary you "can't finish it." I remember hearing all of this before when Paranormal Activity hit theaters and just like that found footage nightmare, I decided I'd drink the Kool-aid and have a look.
Set in 1991, Veronica is the story of a young girl in Spain who finds herself responsible for her younger siblings after their father passes away. Her mother spends all of her time working leaving much of the actual parenting to her 15-year-old daughter in a story that can only be described as tragic. Not quite the good Catholic girl her mother wants her to be, she's interested in a publication, The Encyclopedia of the Occult, and the possibility of speaking to her dead father once again. She convinces two of her friends at school to join her in the basement during a total solar eclipse to play with a Ouija board.
What follows over the next three days are a series of stereotypical haunting/poltergeist phenomena commonly used in horror whenever a teenager touches a summoning board.
Beyond the fact that the story is less terrifying than it is tragic, Veronica has zero scares. Let me say that again and, Netflix, I really hope you're reading this: ZERO SCARES.
From her demonically induced seizure to the creepy, shadowy stalker that only she can see, the story could easily have played out as a Lifetime Original about a teen girl on the cusp of puberty suffering traumatic loss, a sudden unimaginable level of responsibility, and a total break down that is almost guaranteed to occur when parents ignore the mental health of a child after experiencing such a tremendous life change.
"But, Dan, they said 'you can't finish this movie' because it's so scary."
Well, they were half right. Veronica's marketing and overall formula is identical to that of every mid-year attempted terror that studios crank out to gouge middle schoolers with disposable income and a pass to see a PG-13 flick. No, the real reason no one finishes this movie is because of the subtitles. Veronica is a Spanish language film and is mercifully undubbed leaving viewers little choice but to either read the subtitles or learn a new language. Most people save themselves the embarrassment of admitting they didn't want to do either and claim it scared them so badly they had to turn it off rather than admit they lost interest in a film with a banal plot and reading requirements.
Then, of course, like any film of this ilk, there’s the “true story” element of Veronica that’s supposed to make audiences that much more terrified when they realize that “this happened.
” The true story of Veronica is that of an teen girl who suffered a series of seizures and dramatic mood swings with symptoms that suggested a neurological or mental health emergency that were otherwise left in the hands of god to fix until she died. Afterwards, the family claimed to experience your standard paranormal haunting and poltergeist activity and even filed a report about the issue with the most ineffective police force in all of Europe. There’s your true story, folks
That said, Veronica has two things in her favor as a film. First, the performances given by the titular character, her siblings, and really everyone on screen are phenomenal. Despite the dull story, you genuinely feel a connection to the kids and their life after the sudden loss of their father and it hooks you. Honestly, you really want to root for the girl to make it out okay in the end even though you know she won't. Next, the cinematography is beautiful. Scenes are shot so perfectly, so engrossingly that you can't help but be mesmerized by the beauty of the film on screen.
If this had been written as a genuine psychological horror, a girl suffering a mental disorder traumatizing herself further under the delusion of a demonic influence, it would have stood a chance at being enjoyable. This was literally the Spanish language equivalent of every PG-13 teeny horror flick that gets crammed down our throats each year with no intent other than to separate kids from their parents' money and, personally, I feel dirty for falling for the hype. If you want to watch a movie for the artistic elements of film and cinematography used in some of the shots, Veronica is great. If you're looking for something scary I'd suggest turning on the evening news. This will only bore you.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.