“Can you make it through the scariest movie on Netflix?” and “Netflix horror movie Verónica so scary people are turning it off” and “Netflix horror movie Verónica scaring people into shutting it off” are some of the articles online that enticed me into checking out the Spanish language horror movie directed by Paco Plaza (co-creator of the [REC] films) a few years ago. The term that sealed the deal for me was “based on a true story.” Now that claim is about as reliable to horror movies as “made with real fruit or fruit juice” on labels that contain even just the smallest bit of what they say. Verónica really IS based on a true story, a famous ghost story in Spain, kind of like an urban legend, that changes based on the teller, but rooted in the first ever documented paranormal activity in a police report. So IS Verónica truly the scariest movie on Netflix? I doubt it, but I still find it pretty scary.
Here is some groundbreaking news for you: not everyone experiences fear the same way. I know, truly shocking that I might be so afraid of roaches that I have a physical reaction to seeing them – dead, alive, on TV, it doesn’t matter – and YOU might keep them as pets. For me, demonic possession is the scariest type of horror movie (see the article about my introduction to horror with The Exorcist to understand why that might be) but other people find these movies utterly laughable. For YEARS I was terrified of zombies before The Walking Dead completely desensitized me because I saw a Fangoria movie called I, Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain in 1998 that journaled a person’s experience from the moment they were bit as their humanity slowly slipped away until they completely turned. If you examine both of these most feared (to me) horror genres, my reactions to them are clearly rooted in fear of losing control and doing harm to myself and others that I do not choose, dying a slow and painful death, and being conscious of what’s happening along the way. So while some might laugh at the idea of Regan raping herself with a crucifix or Verónica struggling to eat a meatball, those things elicit my fear response.
But enough about me.
Verónica begins with a police recording of a girl begging for help, children screaming, and then dial tone. The apartment where police arrive on the scene is trashed, drawings on the walls, shattered glass everywhere. A panicked woman runs up to the building, to the crying children outside in the rain. The main police detective enters a room, and what he sees makes him freeze on the spot.
Verónica is a teenager in Madrid whose father died, mother is working long and late hours to keep the family afloat, and bears the responsibility of caring for her three younger siblings (the youngest of which is around 5 years old). Vero is intrigued by the occult (but not more than any normal teen) and buys a Ouija board from a magazine stand on the way to parochial school. In the basement of the school with her best friend and another girl, the séance goes terribly wrong, and Veronica become the host to a very unpleasant demonic entity.
The séance scene in Verónica is among the best in horror
The séance scene is among the best I’ve seen in movies – normally, the planchette does some things on its own, lights flicker or go out, and maybe doors slam, but the bulk of the scares are still to come. This scene is arguably the scariest in Verónica. All of the normal séance scares are there, but turned up to 11, and when the flashlights reveal Vero laying on her back on the basement floor, she is whispering something repeatedly before coming to with a deep-throated demonic wail, and the scream has widened her mouth much more than should be humanly possible (made even more frightening by the mouth full of braces Vero’s sporting). At the end of this scene, I turned to my roommate and said “isn’t that so scary?” and she just gave me a little smile that said “nope, but I’m glad you liked it”. See? Fear is subjective.
Vero immediately starts experiencing supernatural phenomenon in the apartment, the gravity of which is amplified by her duty to care for her siblings without an adult to lean on or confide in. This is made worse by the advice of an old blind nun who tells her she must protect the little ones even as the entity harms her siblings and thwarts her protection attempts at every turn. Verónica is full of scary noises, children’s toys that go off on their own, shadow people, falling crucifixes – your standard demonic fare, but all in the hands of a ninth grader. When their mother finally comes home at 2am to find Vero holding a crucifix to ward off the unseen with her younger twin siblings cowering at her legs, she refuses to listen to Vero’s story, scoffing at the supernatural element and blaming the occult magazine’s she’s fond of.
Ultimately, the nun’s advice, to do right what she did wrong (the old adage of saying goodbye at the end of a Ouija session), leads Vero to recreate the séance in the basement, but with her younger siblings this time since the girls originally with her won’t even speak to her. This recreation is the second scariest séance in the movie and brings things full circle back to the police call – finally showing us what the detective saw that left him looking so dumbfounded. It is this detective’s report that the story is based on – both the ghost story told around campfires and at slumber parties in Spain AND the movie, the only details that are accurately depicted being the age of the girl, the basement séance, and the fate that befalls the family.
So, will Verónica keep you up at night? Probably not. But it is a hell of a ride that really makes you care about the fate of Verónica and her younger siblings, particularly the adorably Antoñito who looks at his big sister so lovingly and truly believes she can keep him from the harm she opened the door to in the first place. It is heartbreaking. Verónica is absolutely worth your time, even if it isn’t the scariest movie on Netflix.
Do you think Verónica is the scariest movie on Netflix? Let me know in the comments!