Paco Plaza should be a bigger name in the world of demonic horror movies. After all, the man was half responsible for directing one of the greatest zombie movies of all time, then introducing the demonic element in its almost-as-great sequel. We don't talk about the third [Rec] movie, but his returning to the fold with a full-on Ouija-gone-wrong film is something to celebrate. With Verónica, he shows those wannabes at Blumhouse how the game is really played.
After awakening demonic forces during a Ouija session with school friends, teenage Verónica is a girl under siege. Caring for her three younger siblings while mom's at work, she now adds fending off demons to her never-ending chore list. Mom (when she's around) won't listen, most of her siblings are oblivious, and no-one but the scary blind nun at work will listen to her pleas for help. A big sister's work is never done.
Horror fans will immediately recognise a number of the tropes at play; set in the 1990s, based on a true story, centred around a mishap with a Ouija board and with a large cast of children, this is only a Patrick Wilson away from being yet another sequel to Insidious or The Conjuring. For English and American viewers, the Spanish setting does give it a sense of 'otherness' to which the rest can't compare, but there's still no great originality here.
What there is, however, is a master at work. Verónica boasts an impressively oppressive atmosphere and a great set of performances from the film's young cast. Eschewing traditional bait-and-switch jump scares, the film goes all-in on mood and atmosphere, with extended bodily contortions, creepy kids and truly troubling nightmare sequences. A cross between Ouija: Origin of Evil and The Witch, this is a case of a director playing in a familiar genre wheelhouse rather than building one of his own. And sometimes, there's nothing wrong with that.
Brooding with class and style, it's a cut above most of the movies it shares a story with, but certainly not an all-timer like [Rec]. Verónica is undeniably scary, but 'scariest ever', as the Netflix hive mind claims? Well, maybe the scariest thing on Netflix. Until they add [Rec], at least.
VERÓNICA / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: PACO PLAZA / SCREENPLAY: FERNANDO NAVARRO, PACO PLAZA / STARRING: SANDRA ESCACENA, BRUNA GONZALEZ, CLAUDIA PLACER, IVAN CHAVERO, ANA TORRENT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expecting Rating: 9 out of 10