Home is Where the Heart Is – Verónica (2017)

Some call this Spain’s answer to The Conjuring and if by that they mean that there is an evil spirit out to cause some harm to an innocent family, then yes, it is exactly like The Conjuring. There might be a few similarities between the two films as most movies about ghosts or spirits share certain characteristics that are often the same and in that sense, one can also claim that this film has just as much in common with Poltergeist released in 1982 or any other number of movies. Suffice it to say, sometimes comparisons can be justified, while others are often unfair or simply unnecessary. In this case it is of the latter, for whether comparing it to the aforementioned pictures or another horror featuring comparable subject matter, Verónica stands on its own two feet as a highly enjoyable and somewhat frightening event.

Though it might be a little cliché being released at this point in time, the story concerns a girl named Verónica and her friends who decide to fool around with a Ouija board during an eclipse. Things go wrong of course, with Verónica being the one casualty and coming out of it, she manages to alienate those same friends, notice strange things happening around her and discovering from a nun nicknamed Sister Death that she has a spirit attached to her. As paint-by-numbers as it might seem at first, it still manages to be consistently suspenseful and that is thanks in no small part to its lead actress Sandra Escacena and director Paco Plaza, one half of the team that directed the highly successful REC series of films. Originality might not be the name of the game here and that is perfectly all right as not every movie made has to rewrite the book each and every time. What matters most is if Plaza and company told their story well and it is with confidence that viewers can say yes.

At its core, this movie is about Verónica, pure and simple. She is a girl who loves her family, but is keenly aware of the hole which is present due to the passing of her father. She misses him more than words can probably say which is why she is willing to try and use the Ouija board to contact him. The characterization displayed in the movie makes the audience care about Verónica and they want to see her come out on top, despite all the signs pointing towards a different kind of ending. Plaza plays with the emotions of those watching and it works, keeping them invested in Verónica’s fate. There is one slight moment where it derails just for a second and it involves Verónica’s friend Rosa who knows that something is wrong, but never manages to tell anyone about it. It is a little sad that someone who is as earnest and true as Verónica is, is literally betrayed by someone she thought was a friend. As it is, it does not stop the film from rushing towards that final confrontation that can be seen coming a mile away, with Verónica unable to stop it.

As familiar as it all might seem, and it will be familiar to those who have an interest in the horror genre, Verónica still turns out to be a good film. There are others on the subject that are better, having been released before it and therefore seeming to be more original in nature, but it does not preclude this movie from providing its audience with a good dose of entertainment, not to mention a few scares along the way. The special effects are great and exactly what a movie like this needs with many of the more frightening aspects either being perceived by the audience or done off-screen. When the horror does fully manifest, especially during those final moments, it manages to be quite visceral and worth every minute spent getting there. Overall, Plaza delivers once again with Escacena more than likely being a star in the making.

3.5 out of 5

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