Film Review | Spanish Import Veronica is the True Netflix Surprise

Spanish horror Veronica dropped on Netflix on February 26th. Yet, its release onto the streaming platform went unreported initially amidst Cloverfield Paradox and Mute buzz. In the days following however, hype for the film intensified quickly with some publications asking hyperbolically whether it’s the scariest movie ever made. The answer of course is no, but it is a highly effective chiller. While Netflix’s output in regards to film is patchy at best (for every Okja or The Meyerowitz Stories, there is an Open House or Bright), perhaps the streaming giant’s most effective trick could be picking the best content from foreign countries and making it available to an interested worldwide audience.

Written and directed by Paco Plaza (one-half of the masterminds behind Spanish zombie franchise Rec), Veronica opens with police answering a distress call. The authorities enter an apartment and witness something shocking the audience cannot see. The film then cuts back to three days earlier. For the rest of the movie, we follow the family occupying the home and the events which led to the police being called, creating a ticking bomb of tension.

Sandra Escacena stars as the titular character, a teenage girl. With her father dead and her mother, Ana (Ana Torrent, praised recently for other work on this site) working nights, Veronica (Vero for short) looks after her three younger siblings. Still in mourning over her dad’s death, the teenager tries communicating to the deceased loved one using a Ouija board. Things go wrong and the only person maybe able to help is a blind nun at Vero’s school nicknamed Sister Death (Consuelo Trujillo) because she claims to speak with the dead.

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Vero and Sister Death in Veronica Source


Veronica does not break new ground in the ‘house terrorised by spirits’ sub-genre of horror. That said, it is a supreme example of how effective the type of film can be when done right. Plaza’s direction amps the movie to a next level of dread, pulling some nifty tricks behind the camera. A scene in which Vero has a ghost induced seizure while putting pasta in her mouth is squirm inducing, unclear for a moment whether blood or tomato sauce is running down our protagonist’s chin. In an eerie moment, the camera catches a glimpse of Vero’s home from below. The space between her apartment block and those neighbouring resembles a cross. There is even what appears to be a nod to Dario Argento’s Suspiria with the bright colours projected from a child’s toy being instrumental to one of the film’s central scares.


What also elevates Veronica above other films of its type is its ambiguity. Often when watching movies like The Conjuring or Insidious, the uneasy build up of tension is more satisfying than the explanation for why events are happening, the latter killing suspense in the climax. With Veronica, the final set-piece is the most exciting as Plaza withholds answers until the very last moments, keeping his audience curious and invested. It also helps that he shoots the climactic action scene in the same jittery, claustrophobic but clear manner he brought to Rec.

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Sandra Escacena as Vero in Veronica Source


What is also noteworthy about Veronica is its’ heightened sense of realism. The interactions between our protagonist and her younger siblings’ feel true-to-life. The child performers never feel twee or fake but instead authentically cheeky and adorable. Meanwhile, Vero herself feels very believable; the type of teenager given too much responsibility due to her familial circumstances. Plagued by spirits or not, the titular character’s domestic workload is clearly taking its toll. An eerie dream sequence suggests that the ghosts may have latched onto Veronica due to her fear or unhappiness regarding becoming an adult.

For whatever reason, Spain are the country to beat in terms of terror. In the 21st Century, the country has given us Buried, The Devil’s Backbone, Julia’s Eyes ,The Orphanage, Rec, Sleep Tight and Timecrimes. Veronica is another notch to the nation’s belt. For those less well-versed in horror, it will terrify. For those that are, they can still appreciate what the film does right.

Veronica is currently streaming on Netflix


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