The Véronica project was born in 2007. Inspired by a mysterious true story, the Vallecas affair that rocked Spain in 1990, the film waited more than ten years before finally hitting theaters. It must be said that the feature film has something to intrigue: it is based on tragic events, the only ones to date recognized by the Spanish police as “paranormal”. By entrusting the reins to Paco Plaza, director recognized since [REC], a feature film raised to the rank of “cult horror film” upon its release, the studio wanted to make Véronica a project of international scope. But is it successful?
Terribly true story
Véronica is a young 15-year-old girl who has to take care of her two sisters and her little brother on her own. Her father passed away a few years ago and her mother works all day in a bar. One day, when a solar eclipse takes place, she decides, accompanied by two friends, to try out Ouija. Unfortunately, the session turns badly and the three comrades witness a strange phenomenon. Thereafter, Véronica is victim of visions and attends paranormal events. Over the hours and nights, she slowly begins to sink into madness and put her own family in danger.
The creation of Paco Plaza has a significant advantage: it is inspired by a true story but above all by a striking news item that we still talk about in Spain. And what is quickly obvious is that the film is imbued with a special atmosphere, bordering on family drama, to portray its purpose to us. Unlike stereotypical feature films which are always constructed in the same way, surprising viewers less and less, Véronica tries another approach. The characters who are introduced all benefit from special care and we quickly understand that there is no question of playing on a certain ease induced by the horror scene in recent years. Unfortunately, not everything is going as expected.
The big problem with the film is its lack of rhythm. If starting on a light note and presenting Madrid in a different light is meant to be convincing, we would have preferred, especially for this type of achievement, that paranormal events received a smarter treatment. Thus, on the 1h45 of projection, we find a staging quite symptomatic of the horror of the 2010s. Between two distressing scenes, the story follows its course and inevitably brings us where we expected it without ever really surprising us. It’s a shame because we felt that there was behind this project something very interesting to present beyond even the dismal story that is that of this teenage girl. Faced with the loss of a loved one, she feels lost, helpless in a society that does not seem to evolve at the same rate as her.
A crying lack
What we would have liked with this achievement is that it takes us to an experience at the Blair Witch Project. A film where everything is induced without ever being shown or very little, playing heavily on the reaction of its characters and distressing situations, making the viewer uncomfortable, bordering on disgust. With Veronica, we feel like an impression of déjà vu with interesting sequences, but too classic where the jump scares are linked to each other in an attempt to raise the adrenaline. Véronica does present some striking scenes, which should appeal to purists, but has nothing of the shock announced and hoped for.
Fortunately, the film is partly saved by the staging of Paco Plaza which alternates sequence shots that captivate the audience. By focusing on the emotions of his characters and the environments in which they operate, the Spanish director channels attention and reveals a relevant facet of horror cinema that deserves to be more present today.
From the first to the last minute, we feel this desire to bring a touch of modernity in the way we revisit a story of which we necessarily already know the epilogue. The photography of the film, directed by Pablo Rosso (who has already officiated on the [REC] saga) is also of quality and allows to release a welcome oppressive atmosphere.
As for the casting, we will especially highlight the performance of Sandra Escacena, the protagonist of the feature film, who brilliantly interprets the character of Véronica. She brings to it a certain innocence and a modesty which gives her role all the necessary accuracy. Unlike Hollywood productions which tend to deviate a little too much from their audience, the heroine of the feature film appears much more human and close, especially in terms of her feelings, to the viewer. For a first in this exercise, the young woman is doing admirably well.
Véronica could have been an excellent horror movie but it gives the impression of having put spades in the wheels. Its pace, too low, and its fairly classic staging do not fully convince. Too bad because there was something intriguing there, especially with an intelligent script and a little more sophisticated than many current productions. We will remember a few striking passages and above all an artistic direction above the rest.