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John’s Horror Corner: Veronica (2017), an underwhelming Spanish film based on the true story of a Ouija séance-gone-wrong.

March 24, 2018

MY CALL: Incredibly derivative and unoriginal—yes, even in the context of the horror genre in this day and age. This just felt like a watered down Insidious (2010-2017) film and I’m shocked that Placo Plaza ([REC] 1-3) could ever disappoint me… but he did. MOVIES LIKE Veronica: Well… For more Spanish-language horror films you should try The Damned (2013), The House at the End of Time (2013), The Orphanage (2007), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and the [REC] anthology (2007-2014). Other horror that has fun with Ouija boards include Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) and Witchboard (1986).

Based on a true story that took place in Madrid, Spain in 1991, and written (in part) and directed by Paco Plaza (Cuento de Navidad, [REC] 1-3), this foreign horror has been accumulating a lot of positive buzz online. I’m sorry to say it, but I don’t think it’s well-deserved.

Taking care of her three younger siblings, high schooler Veronica (Sandra Escacena) is responsibly mature while truly still only a child herself. Veronica is haunted by an evil supernatural force after she and her classmates attempt a séance with a Ouija Board during an eclipse. Go figure, right?

The spectral symptoms are eerie, yet unmenacing at first—things like self-closing doors, electrical flickerings and objects moving on their own but only when no one is looking tend to feel almost impishly playful. Despite opening with something of a “young adult ghost story” feel, the tone appropriately shifts from Poltergeist (1982, 2015) to Insidious (2010-2017) with a dash of The Apparition (2012) as the film draws more disturbing imagery like nude ghosts of babbling loved ones, black limbs reaching from the void, and gaunt demonic forms (e.g., the demons of Insidious) wandering about the apartment. It’s a shame the quality in execution didn’t match the cultivation of atmosphere. Most of this fell flat for me.

I didn’t really find it very compelling—at all. This film wasn’t necessarily boring, but even when advancing at a good pace I found it utterly unengaging. Definitely wasn’t scary, and there were some failed proddings at a coming-of-age component in the story. Everything we see here are things I’ve seen before, seen done much better, and am presently seeing in no original permutation. I’m reminded of my disappointment with Apartment 143 (2011). Sigh.

Our blind nun is a needlessly cliché harbinger unironically revealed, the founding basis of the Ouija board and the “rules” governing the spirits on the “other side” were shakily contrived, and the biggest revelations in the final act packed no punch.  The only thing that really worked in this film was the relationship between Veronica and her three siblings—all the child actors performed well. But that simply wasn’t enough to salvage this.

This was really a shocking disappointment for me since I loved Plaza’s [REC] 1-3 films so much. My recommendation is to simply let the phantasmal limbs drag Veronica into some other-worldly oubliette where she’ll be able to bore no more unlucky horror fans.

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