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Veronica

Year: 2017
Production Co: Apache Films
Director: Paco Plaza
Writer: Paco Plaza/Fernando Navarro
Cast: Sandra Escacena

There was a little bit of chatter when this film came out about it being the scariest movie ever made. It's got some frights, but you'll realise when it's over that was just a narrative some savvy producer or PR company very successfully peddled and planted in the filmgoing firmament.

It's certainly not the first horror story about teenagers playing with a ouija board, but it's got the unique dimension of being based on a true case from the suburbs of Madrid in the early 90s. It's also got a bit of a suckerpunch at the end because even though the real cops who attended the aftermath talked about seemingly paranormal phenomena they couldn't explain, it very cleverly recasts the ordeal of a girl who was most likely bipolar into a ghost story.

We're thrown into the horror full tilt as the film opens, police rushing around an apartment building on a rainy night while an emergency call is played in the background, a young girl in obvious terror as she screams about something coming to get her and her siblings.

A week or so earlier we meet her. 15 year old Veronica (Sandra Escacena) takes care of her younger brother and sisters because their waitress mother works so much – getting them to and from school, preparing meals and studying.

Still dealing with the death of her father and missing him more than she apparently lets on, Veronica has decided to do something about it. When her teacher talks about how the ancients used eclipses to summon the spirits of the dead, Veronica decides to try and make contact with her dad during the forthcoming eclipse everyone else at school will be watching from the school's roof.

She recruits her best friend and a hanger on who wants to be part of their group, they find a creepy basement in the school building to perform the ritual in, and it's barely started before weird stuff starts happening. When Veronica cuts her finger on the glass they're using and blood drips onto the board, she screams maniacally and passes out.

When she wakes up later on, the school nurse says she fainted because of a simple iron deficiency, so Veronica forgets the whole incident and gets on with her life.

But it soon seems apparent something came through a portal to the world of the living during the seance. Supernatural happenings become more frequent and more frightening as Veronica goes about her day (or night), and she's soon convinced her father – or something darker – is trying to make contact.

Human-shaped burn marks on mattresses, dark shadows on the other side of the glass, the kids being attacked and choked in their sleep – it all adds up to a pretty classic poltergeist story.

As the teenage heroine, Escacena is cute and pretty, but she has a very morose, haunted quality that director Paco Plaza ( [Rec] ) makes great use of in scenes of dark and shadow.

It constructs enough story and makes you care enough about what Veronica is going through to give the reveal near the end some real impact – even if you've guessed it beforehand – and while it's nothing terribly groundbreaking and won't exactly make you wet your pants in terror, it's a very effective haunted house romp.

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