Verónica (2017 Spanish film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paco Plaza|
|Produced by||Enrique López Lavigne|
|Screenplay by||Fernando Navarro |
|Music by||Chucky Namanera|
|Edited by||Marti Roca|
Veronica (Spanish: Verónica) is a 2017 Spanish supernatural horror drama film directed by Paco Plaza. It was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. It is loosely based on true events from the 1991 Vallecas case where Estefanía Gutiérrez Lázaro died mysteriously after she used a ouija board.
The film opens in 1991 in medias res, with emergency services responding to a call from a young girl. She sounds panicked and screams about her brother Antoñito, and something "coming to get him", before the call cuts off.
The film then goes back in time three days. Verónica is a 15-year-old girl living with her mother and three siblings in an apartment in the working-class district of Vallecas, Madrid. Their father died recently and their mother works long hours at a bar to support the family, leaving Verónica in charge of her younger siblings: twins Lucia and Irene, and Antoñito. On the day of the solar eclipse, her teacher explains how some ancient cultures used eclipses to stage human sacrifices and summon dark spirits.
While the school gathers on the roof to view the eclipse, Verónica, her friend Rosa, and their classmate Diana go into the basement to conduct a séance using a Ouija board. Verónica wants to reach out to her late father, and Diana wants to reach out to her late boyfriend, who died in a motorcycle accident. The board responds right away but Rosa and Diana pull their hands back when the glass cup becomes too hot to touch. Verónica's hand remains on it, and at the moment of the eclipse, the cup shatters, cutting her finger and dripping blood onto the board. Verónica becomes unresponsive, whispering something repeatedly that Rosa leans in to hear, and suddenly lets out a demonic scream. After passing out, she wakes in the school nurse's office, who tells her she probably passed out from iron deficiency.
Verónica begins experiencing paranormal occurrences. She is unable to eat her dinner, as if an invisible hand is preventing her. Claw and bite marks appear on her body and she hears strange noises. Her friends begin avoiding her. Looking for answers, she goes back to the school basement and finds the school's elderly blind nun whom the students call "Sister Death." The nun scolds her for doing something so dangerous and explains that the séance attached a dark spirit to her; she needs to protect her siblings. The nun tries to compel the spirit to leave her, but nothing happens.
Verónica draws protective Viking symbols for the kids, only for the demon to destroy them. She tries to help Lucia when the spirit chokes her, but Lucia says it was Verónica who was choking her. That night, Verónica dreams that her siblings are eating her. She wakes up to find that she's on her first period. As she scrubs her mattress, she finds burn marks on the underside. Later, she finds on each of the kids' mattresses a large burn mark in the shape of a human body. Verónica goes to Sister Death for advice; the nun tells of how she used to see dark spirits when she was younger, and intentionally blinded herself in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the visions. Sister Death tells her that she can force the spirits to leave by doing right what she did wrong. Verónica learns that it is important to say goodbye to the spirit at the end of the séance. After going to a party at Rosa's house, she asks Rosa and Diana to help her hold another séance, but they refuse. Rosa reveals that, at the séance, Verónica whispered that she herself would die in three days.
Desperate, she decides to hold the séance with her young siblings. She has Antoñito draw the protective symbols on the walls, but he flips to the wrong page and instead draws symbols of invocation. When she tells the spirit to say goodbye, it refuses. She calls the police as the spirit snatches Antoñito, manages to grab him back, and escapes along with Lucia and Irene. However, when she gets to the exit she sees in a mirror that she is not actually holding Antoñito but just imagined it. She returns to find her brother hiding in a closet and calling her name. She finds him and notices he won't go with her. Verónica looks at herself in the mirror and sees the demon, realizing she has been possessed by the demon the entire time, and had been harming her siblings under its control. She attempts to end the possession by slitting her own throat but is prevented by the demon. The police enter to find her being attacked by an invisible force and passing out. The medics carry her and Antoñito out while a shaken detective observes the scene. As the detective watches a framed photograph of Verónica suddenly catch fire, he is informed that she has died. Five years later in 1996, he reports of unexplained paranormal activity having occurred in Madrid. It is explained that the movie is based on the true events of the first police report in Spain where an officer certifies having witnessed paranormal activity.
- Sandra Escacena as Verónica
- Bruna González as Lucía
- Claudia Placer as Irene
- Iván Chavero as Antoñito
- Ana Torrent as Ana
- Consuelo Trujillo as Hermana Muerte
- Sonia Almarcha
- Maru Valduvielso
- Leticia Dolera
- Ángela Fabián as Rosa
- Samuel Romero
- Carla Campra as Diana
The film was inspired when Estefania Gutierrez Lazaro reportedly suffered hallucinations and seizures after performing the séance at a school in Madrid to try to contact her friend's deceased boyfriend who had died six months earlier. Her exact cause of death is a mystery. Her house allegedly became haunted after her death according to the British music magazine NME. The American magazine Newsweek, referenced by NME, is more cautious and while acknowledging that the case is real, likens the event to the similar pop-culture phenomenon and urban legend The Amityville Horror. In the same magazine, director Paco Plaza says that he didn't feel bound to portray the real events, clarifying "...the whole story of Veronica and the sisters and Antonito, this little Marlon Brando with glasses, it’s all a vision." 
The film was released on Netflix on 26 February 2018. It has since received positive reviews, including being dubbed "the scariest horror film ever". Erica Russell at NYLON magazine called Verónica a "stylish, impressively well-cast, and atmospheric" horror film. The film currently holds an 88% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10.
- Holland, Jonathan (28 August 2017). "'Veronica': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- Lang, Brett (15 August 2017). "Toronto Adds Films From Aaron Sorkin, Louis C.K., Brie Larson". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
- Whalen, Andrew (2 March 2018). "Investigating the true story behind Veronica, the new Netflix horror movie about summoning a demon during an eclipse". Newsweek. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
- Braidwood, Ella (2 March 2018). "Veronica: is it the scariest horror film ever?". NME. Time UK. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
- ""Is Veronica, the New Netflix Horror Movie, a True Story?"". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
- Rowney, Jo-Anne (2 March 2018). "Real story behind Netflix's 'scariest ever' horror film Veronica". The Daily Mirror. MGN. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
- Russell, Erica (5 March 2018). "Netflix's 'Verónica' Is About the Terror of Being a Teenage Girl". Nylon. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "Veronica (Verónica) (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 17 April 2018.