Film Review: Verónica

Paco Plaza’s Verónica is a by-the-numbers demonic possession horror that boasts good production values but little in the way of originality.

Teenager Verónica must look after her siblings whilst her mother works. When she and two school friends play with a Ouija board, there are unwanted consequences…

Taking place over a three-day period, Verónica is a demonic possession horror loosely based on a real police case. The catalyst for supernatural events is a ouija board game that goes wrong; in this sense, it similar to a number of other horror movies. The film is set up with a brief segment from the finale which reveals little about the events. It then begins from the day of the fateful game.

Protagonist Verónica is a sympathetic character. Having to look after her younger siblings whilst their mother works long hours, it is easy to feel for the teenage girl. As events progress, it is clear the supernatural activities speak to her fears of responsibility and her relationship with her mother. Director and co-writer Paco Plaza plays with these ideas so that they are overt at times, but do not overwhelm the narrative.

Various conventions are present in the film. The familiar horror tropes such as the absent parents, the creepy sage who imparts knowledge, and the nightmare sequences all play their role. There are a number of tense scenes, but the film never really terrifies. One thing Plaza does well is not expend the tension before the film’s climax. This results in one of the better recent finales in this sub-genre.

The special effects are good throughout. The film makes the most of the lighting, and sound design is also effective. Performances from the young cast are great. Sandra Escacena is believable, whilst the younger children act well both as natural siblings and in the film’s scarier scenes. They are aided by a decent script.

Verónica is an amply entertaining picture, but one that lacks an original slant.

Verónica is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

BFI London Film Festival 2017 Launch

It’s that time of year again. Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2017. The festival this year sees 242 feature films being screened, which includes 28 world premieres. Here are some picks to look out for at the London Film Festival 2017…

Headline Galas

The opening and closing galas previously announced; closing gala Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in particular looks great. Directed by Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths), the film stars Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. Other Headline Gala highlights include Battle of the Sexes (starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell), Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Another highlight is The Killing of a Sacred Deer, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster). The film stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan, and is about a doctor who introduces his family to a fatherless young man he has befriended.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

This year sees the return of the Embankment Garden Cinema and its series of Strand Galas.   There are a number of exciting screenings, including Redoubtable (Le Redoutable). Directed by Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) the film is a biopic of Jean-Luc Godard and stars Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, and Bérénice Bejo. Also showing is Wonderstruck, based on the novel of the same name. Directed by Todd Haynes (Carol), the film stars Julianne Moore. Among the Special Presentations are Sally Potter’s The Party and the first two episodes of David Fincher’s upcoming Netflix series Mindhunter.

Official Competition

Amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2017 are The Breadwinner (an animated film about a young girl in Taliban-controlled Kabul), and Thoroughbred, which stars Anya Taylor-Joy. The First Feature Competition includes Beast, which is about a young woman who falls for a police suspect. Also in this category is I Am Not A Witch, about a young girl in a Zambian village who is accused of being a witch. The Documentary Competition includes Jane, a film about primatologist Jane Goodall.

Strands

A highlight of this year’s Love strand is How to Talk to Girls at Parties, based on the Neil Gaiman short story. The film stars Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. The Debate strand features The Venerable W., a documentary about a Buddhist monk espousing anti-Muslim rhetoric. Laugh includes Brigsby Bear, a comedy about a man who tries to remake a children’s show he was obsessed with. A highlight of the Dare category is 9 Fingers, directed by FJ Ossang. The Thrill section includes the classic noir Mildred Pierce, whilst Harry Dean Stanton and David Lynch star in Lucky as part of the Journey strand.

The Cult strand includes Paco Plaza’s horror Veronica, and Create features documentary G Funk, about Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg. The Family strand includes fairy tale compendium Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess. Experimenta features documentary Tonsler Park, a timely film about polling stations in Charlottesville during last year’s US election.

The full London Film Festival 2017 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 4th-15th October 2017.