Veronica (2017)

2017 | Unrated (R equivalent) | starring Sandra Escacena | directed by Paco Plaza | 1 hr 45 mins |

Halloween Horrorfest # 6

Paco Plaza’s Veronica is a fine case study in a movie working because of not what it’s about but how it’s about it, as Roger Ebert always said. At a high level it is made up of the same basic pieces you’d find in almost any studio Hollywood horror flick where teenagers are haunted by evil spirits. The premise even sounds like Ouija.

Starring and carried by Sandra Escacena as Veronica, she is the antithesis of the Hollywood scream queen. Escacena is great here and plays the braces-wearing teenager with an appropriately perfect mix of awkwardness and desperation. While the rest of her school is watching a solar eclipse, Veronica and two friends sneak off to conduct a séance with a ouija board, a seance that gets broken when our lead is seemingly attacked by a demon, one that continues to stalk her and threaten the younger siblings that she almost entirely cares for.

Veronica has a handful of well orchestrated James Wan-esque bait-and-switch jump sequences, but it’s mostly about creating dread. Plaza, co-director of the Rec series, seems to love these type of movies, infusing Veronica with enthusiasm, style and heart. Using cliches to his advantage. One of his little tricks is to use an in-movie song to double as it’s own score. In the movie’s best scene, Plaza tips a hat to genre history as Veronica stalks her shadow demon through the house while the TV left on blares a classic horror film score.

Veronica takes a minute to get revved up, but once it does Plaza delivers a satisfying and jam-packed 2nd half taking us through this film’s cramped apartment of horrors. The film comes with a bit of horror-crowd hype that it manages to live up to. Plaza knows how to tell a clean story as well as raise a demonic ruckus, massaging the visuals and sounds of film to ignite the scares. Veronica is a genre movie and makes no apologies for it. It’s great fun with a somber chaser.  Fans should rejoice. Veronica is the movie Blumehouse Pictures wishes it was making, but instead of just safe slumber party fodder, it has real craft to it. And yet, it’s still a slumber party movie at heart – for that group of 14 year old girls that are very film literate, have great taste and watch scary foreign films at their slumber parties. More unlikely niches are out there.

So far, the highlight of this year’s Halloween Horrorfest.

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