Possession films are a hard thing to get right. After 1973, it was inevitable that every title in the horror subgenre would draw comparisons to The Exorcist, or even go so far as to blatantly copy its formula. Given that each movie in the subgenre is viewed under the lens of arguably the greatest horror film ever made, filmmakers are forced to A) craft a unique-enough take so that comparisons are limited, or B) deal with the fact that they’ll always live under the shadow of a classic. Though it may brush shoulders with The Exorcist from time to time, Veronica, the new film from Paco Plaza, the director of REC, manages a few gasps of fresh air, despite borrowing heavily from other supernatural tropes.
The film follows the titular teen, played by Sandra Escacena, as she cares for her three younger siblings in the wake of her father’s death and her mother’s dutiful absence. The children attend a catholic school that is preparing to witness an eclipse at the beginning of the film, but Veronica, who dwells in loneliness, skips the school event to play with a Ouija board in hopes of communicating with her dad. Rather than speaking with her father, though, as you likely suspect, she unleashes an evil that follows her home and torments her family.
Where Veronica sets itself apart from standard possession films is in its reluctance to follow the path of one. It’s evident from the beginning of the movie that Plaza intends to carve a fresh track through familiar territory, resulting in an incredibly strong 45 minutes or so. Unfortunately, after the bravura opening, Veronica takes the form of a standard supernatural flick- rendering any freshness that Plaza had worked to maintain.
While that aspect of the film is relatively disappointing, life remains in the details: The flourishes of the camera by Plaza, who masterfully balances artistic, visionary shots with moments of genuine horror and tension; the lead performance of Escacena, who is heartbreaking in her portrayal of a young teen that feels every ounce of the world’s weight as it crashes around her, in addition to the performances by the younger cast, who shine in comparison to other child performers; and the musical score and soundtrack, which adds to the horror when necessary but proves essential in shaping the personality of Veronica.
It’s in these details that Plaza’s film thrives, and it’s because of them that Veronica is a cut above other films in the possession subgenre.