LFF 2017: Verónica Review
More on BFI London Film Festival 2017
To avoid any confusion: there are two Spanish-language horror films from 2017 with the same title. This is not a review of the Mexican film directed by Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martinez-Beltran, which had its European premiere at Frightfest in London in August, but of the film directed by Paco Plaza.
It's June 1991 in Madrid. With her mother (Ana Torrent) often out of the house, it's fallen to teenaged Verónica (Sandra Escacena) to look after her younger siblings Lucía (Bruna González), Irene (Claudia Placer) and Antoñito (Iván Chavera), to feed and dress them and make sure they get to school. While most of her schoolmates are watching a total solar eclipse, Verónica and her schoolfriend Rosa (Ángela Fabián) are playing with a ouija board. Not a good move, as soon something sinister is following Verónica back to her house…
Plaza is best known for [REC] and its two sequels, and there's a hint of fake documentary in his new film, beginning with television news footage of the police arriving on the scene where it's clear something terrible has happened. We then flash back three days to the dates of the eclipse. The documentary style is continued with day/date captions. The film is based on a genuine police report of believed paranormal activity but the story has clearly been considerably fictionalised. (For one thing, there wasn't a total solar eclipse visible in Spain at that time.) Without all these trappings, what remains is a horror film which you've seen many times before, well-executed though it is, and telling the story in flashback only makes it more predictable than it might have been. And at an hour and three quarters, the film could easily have shed some twenty minutes.