Daddy, what did you leave behind for me?”– Pink Floyd; Another Brick in the Wall 1
Mirror.co.uk, nme.com, The Sun, amongst others just can’t stop raving about the brutality of Veronica; going to the extent of asking this: “is Veronica the scariest film ever?” and stating, “new horror film dubbed scariest ever”; it doesn’t stop there, the film has managed to garner a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a feat virtually impossible for a genre not taken seriously except when it is scaring the good sense out of the viewers, brutalizing them with its visuals, harassing the senses and tearing good reason to shreds.
Even then, for a film to be compared with other hand-to-heart horror outings like The Exorcist, 1973 and the crowd-pleaser; The Conjuring, 2013 in these hard to handle times is something that director Paco Plaza (Rec., 2007) should be extremely proud of.
“And people have taken to Twitter to warn fellow users about their nail-biting viewing experience”, cautions NME in an article published on March 2, 2018.
Seriously? Have they not watched Human Zoo, 2020? Or is it too excoriated for their elitist predilection? Alright, even then there’s Ben Wheatley‘s devastating and violent, Kill List, 2011 and the unrated version of the highly polished and provocative, A Serbian Film, 2010; a nasty, charlatan (for its production values), exploitative, and an extremely difficult to watch, film. And even more perverse and challenging to consume on many levels. A film that has divided even the most depraved of genre fans. A film that managed to affect this sinnerman such, that a review is always being delayed intentionally, kicking the can (of film) down the road. For you see I’m seriously petrified to revisit the atrocity by genre specialist Srdjan Spasojevic, something similar to Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom, 1972. A film that reveals director Pasolini‘s desire to burst the limits of cinema with its stylistically and thematically marked aesthetics and the perverse dynamics of desire, which could very well be the artistic calling for the great provocateur. I mean he was run down and then repeatedly driven over, even after he was dead. His testicles were crushed by what appeared to be a metal bar and the body was put on fire, three weeks before the film was released, with some calling him a “dirty communist”. He was gay (and a rebel), OK; and this was the Seventies, but still.
Is Veronica still such a terrible threat? Is the film really that scary? Is the psychosexual/possession drama, based on real-life events, all that blood-curdling? Do the visuals and the chain-smoking Sister Death (Consuelo Trujillo) really affect the viewing experience adversely, creating a sense of nerve-racking doubt, inseminating daunting suspicion, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness in its audiences?
Well, it does, but only as much and not to the extent where the viewer would want to repeat a line spoken by one of the child-actors in the film, “I will not wet my bed tomorrow” – it is far from films that maim and their visuals make the viewers physically sick.
The kid is called Antonito (Iván Chavero), the youngest of Veronica’s siblings and a kid who does this little innocent something, towards the end, which could have been the catalyst of all hell breaking loose, Viking Symbol of Protection or no Viking Symbol of Protection (it seems that the Xerox facility is not available in the Madrid of 1991). It doesn’t matter, when Sister Blind Smokes thinks aloud: “Run, run, run while you still can” or something to that effect.
It is all very gloomy, atmospheric, unnerving at times and yes, it did manage to scare this sinner-man with one of the sequences in the film when the sun dawns on “Day 2”. However, it is not even close to the ruthlessness of the films noted above. Veronica scares, but fleetingly and it is not at all like the films from the extremely dark and desolate side of the moon.
It dare not be such.
Veronica, as previously noted, is based on real-life police case-files whose events were recorded by one of the members of the first response team to reach the apartment complex; Detective Romero (Chema Adeva), after the event took place in Madrid in the year of The Lord (“He has nothing to do with this”), 1991, when three teenage girls decided to play with the Ouija board (Como se ve en la TV) or fuck with it to communicate with the spirit of one of the participants’ recently deceased boyfriend. Three days later the police received a distress call (408 in progress) with a frantic voice pleading for help. They play the actual (archived) police tape as the opening titles are being flashed on to the screen. That is something that put this pilgrim on a tangent or off it, thinking that Veronica just might be up there with The Blair Witch Project, 1999 or Paranormal Activity, 2007 or Sinister, 2012 or even with (don’t kill me) the heavyweights themselves, The Witch, 2015 and Hereditary, 2018. I’m sure I missed something to compare the low-impact scares of Veronica with the titles above. But it must be sequentially lined up with genre associations, with the usual suspects. After all, the film did manage to terrify a handful of people who matter and a whole lot of those who don’t and never will.
“I will not wet my bed tomorrow” and unfortunately for the film, I didn’t even do it while watching it, not even by spilling the soda on the bed that I was consuming during the viewing.
Having said that, Veronica does manage to rattle the senses (in its own little cordial manner – the fervent is such) and yes, it does command some high-grade, extremely scary creature/psycho scares, which, again, are solid only when being compared to its contingent of restrained horror. Nothing heavy or scarring for life.
A coming of darkly age horror drama, Veronica is a mixed bag of highly potent scares (analogously) and a story arc that bends in all the wrong places to squander the desired reaction from its audience by the appropriation of stylized edits and efficacious performances not only by its lead, actor Sandra Escacena but also from the supporting cast that includes child actors who do not let the others down when the Devil himself makes an appearance as the Criatura (Samuel Romero) with long blonde hair, first staring out of an ‘old snapshot in the family pictures shoebox” and then as a shadow gliding along the wall and finally as what could be vivid dreaming, hallucinations or Martin Sheen slowly being revealed as his muddy head appears out of smoky, murky waters.
So, yeah, the film is what it is; terrifying and creepy and brutal (but nothing that this pilgrim cannot handle; you know what I can’t handle, but still do despite the perils associated to cinema with a dark heart) and has kids as potential victims, but it is definitely not the scariest horror film ever, Sister Death, daddy from BBC Food, the sound of roosters as the doors close behind our damsel in some ‘holy shit’ distress and what have you or don’t have.
Debe decir adios”
A must watch, in-spite of the inaccurate, puffy declaration(s)
Veronica is available on Netflix and a Blu-ray copy can be bought by clicking on the image above.