VERONICA. (2017) A NETFLIX HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

VERONICA. (2017) A SPANISH HORROR FILM FOR NETFLIX DIRECTED BY PACO PLAZA AND STARRING SANDRA ESCACENA. LOOSELY BASED ON REAL EVENTS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I wasn’t expecting this Netflix horror film to be as good as it is. Loosely based on a real-life Ouija board case from Spain in 1991 in which a girl died mysteriously after using one of those devil-boards, it’s the story of a very ordinary schoolgirl, the titular Veronica.

She experiences hauntings and a bit of the old demonic possession as well after using the Ouija board which comes free with the occult magazine she regularly buys. A free Ouija board? I remember the days when a cheap sparkly nail varnish sellotaped to the front of your magazine was the most you could expect, lol.  

Anyway, poor Veronica seems to be having quite a hard time of it generally, even without the haunting to contend with. Her dad is dead, and her mum works all the hours God sends in the family restaurant/bar to keep a roof over her kids’ heads and food in their mouths.

Mum unfortunately has to put a ridiculous amount of pressure on Veronica, as the oldest child, to care for her two younger sisters, Irene and Lucia, and her adorable little brother with the curly hair and glasses, Antonito. The kids are all likeable and terrific little actors too, but, as their screen sister Veronica knows, they take an awful lot of looking after.

Veronica has to get them up in the morning and see that they’re washed, fed, dressed and ready for school. She does a full day of school herself then, before collecting the young ‘uns, dropping by the restaurant to pick up the food which Mum has prepared for their dinners and bringing everyone home again to feed ‘em, wash ‘em, get ‘em to bed and then do her own homework.

It really is an incredible amount of pressure to put on a teenage girl but, as I said, Mum doesn’t really have any choice. It’s either work or starve and be homeless. Veronica is fifteen and still hasn’t had her first menstrual period. Maybe its onset is delayed by the tremendous pressure the girl is under, who knows?

She’s definitely ripe for a haunting-slash-possession, though, as teenage girls often seem to be, because of riotous hormonal activity and, in this case, because of the death of a father whom she clearly misses. Plus, of course, her dad’s demise left her in the unenviable position of being a second parent to her younger siblings.

She’s been denied the carefree adolescence some girls experience, and she often has to miss out on seeing her friends to babysit her siblings. Also, the film-makers have thrown in a solar eclipse for good measure. Could the stars have been aligned in exactly the right way for a haunting to occur…?

The haunting is pretty damn effective. Veronica starts seeing things, awful things, around the family apartment, and having frightful nightmares, shortly after using the Ouija board in her Catholic school junk room with two of her friends. Her own odd behaviour during the séance causes her friends to be wary of her afterwards. The session scares all three girls witless, anyway.

‘Sr. Death,’ the blind, chain-smoking retired nun who lives at the school, is able to sense that ‘someone’ now walks beside Veronica who was accidentally summoned up by the amateur séance, someone from whom her three siblings must now be protected. Veronica has opened a door, the ancient nun says, that should never have been opened. If Veronica didn’t have the willies up her before, she certainly does now.

I was scared stiff myself watching the hauntings. Poor Veronica. Her friends have ditched her, her mum thinks she’s acting out just to make things difficult for everyone and their downstairs neighbour wants to know what all the racket from upstairs is about when Veronica doesn’t have a clue herself. She’s left to face the horrors alone and the outcome is going to be bloody…

I love ‘paranormal activity’ films and this is a good ‘un. The moral of the story is, of course, that you should never interfere with things you don’t fully understand, and the occult is probably at the top of that list.

I wouldn’t personally use a Ouija board if you paid me to, that’s how spooked I would be at the whole idea of waking sleeping dogs with a sledgehammer, which is the effect the Ouija board seems to have on the spirit world.

The film’s ending is shocking and could maybe have been prevented if only poor Veronica hadn’t been left shouldering so much responsibility by herself, but, as we’ve agreed, Mum has to work and that’s that. There is no-one else, as there’s no-one else for so many real-life single parent families. Maybe that’s the real horror in this story.

Other reviewers have pointed out the very obvious undercurrents of sexual abuse underpinning Veronica’s story and, if they’re right, it makes for a sad tale indeed. Either way, whatever you decide is the reason for all these gruesome happenings, it makes for a really gripping watch.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE SPANISH VERSION OF DRACULA. (1931) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

spanish dracula carlos 2

THE SPANISH VERSION OF DRACULA. (1931) BASED ON THE BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY GEORGE MELFORD. PRODUCED BY CARL LAEMMLE JUNIOR AND PAUL KOHNER. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES.

STARRING CARLOS VILLARIAS, LUPITA TOVAR, BARRY NORTON AND MANUEL ARBO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘He cut open a vein in his arm and forced me to drink from it.’

Sometimes when I watch this film I almost fancy that I prefer it to the Bela Lugosi version, and the Bela Lugosi version is one of my all-time Top Three favourite film versions of the story ever. (It keeps company with Hammer’s 1958 DRACULA starring Christopher Lee, and Werner Herzog’s NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE from 1979. It’s in very good company, I hope you’ll agree.)

This Spanish version was made concurrently with the Bela Lugosi/UNIVERSAL version. It was even made on the same sets, except that the Spanish version was made by night and the English version by day. As one cast and crew trooped out, finished for the day, another cast and crew would troop in, ready for their night-shift using some of the most memorable and iconic sets in cinema.

Carlos Villarias, the Spanish El Conde Dracula, seems at first glance almost too smiley and goofy-looking to play the most evil villain in cinema history, but he soon proves himself more than capable of the level of menace required to play such a deliciously pernicious character.

It’s true that he lacks the handsome sophistication of Bela Lugosi and Bela’s Eastern European air of mystery, but he makes a damned good Dracula just the same. I would even say that his performance is the equal of Bela’s, just slightly different obviously as he’s a different person/actor and hails from a different country, a warmer country where the people are reputedly of a more passionate nature than some other of their European counterparts.

The story moves along the same lines as the English language version, with Renfield the estate agent’s clerk travelling to Dracula’s Castle in the mountains in Transylvania against the advice of the locals, who themselves wouldn’t go near the place if you paid them.

He does manage, however, to get a carriage-driver to get him to the infamous Borgo Pass at midnight, where Dracula’s carriage awaits and conveys Renfield to the castle. He finds Count Dracula- El Conde Dracula- a little eccentric but charming and cordial, even if his castle is ramshackle and creepy and belongs to the Dark Ages.

Renfield has, as requested, brought the Count the deeds to Carfax Abbey, Dracula’s intended new home in England. Dracula informs him that they’ll be leaving for England by ship on the morrow, along with Dracula’s ‘three boxes,’ the only luggage the strange Count intends to carry with him.

If he was bringing his three wives, of course, the level of luggage might be an entirely different story. You know women, lol. There’d be hat-boxes and cosmetic boxes and jewellery boxes and boxes of knick-knacks and rails of dresses in plastic safety coverings and the whole shebang. That ship would have sunk like the Titanic.

By the time the ship docks in England, Renfield’s mind is all but destroyed by Dracula’s special ‘kiss’ and he’s clapped straightaway into Dr. Seward’s Sanatarium for the mentally ill. The security there, mind you, is every bit as lax as in the English version of the film and he’s allowed to wander the house and grounds as he pleases, pursued half-heartedly by Martin his minder.

He even ventures into the private quarters of the wealthy Dr. Seward and his family, which consists of just himself and his beautiful daughter Eva. Renfield is now all about the catching and devouring of flies and other small creatures with blood in them- ‘Blood is life!’- and getting excited about the proximity of his ‘Master,’ whom he both adores and fears.

Dracula, meanwhile, has contrived an introduction at the theatre to his neighbours Dr. Seward and Eva, and also Eva’s best friend Lucia Weston and Eva’s fiancé Juan Harker. All four of them are impressed by the Count’s courtesy and good manners.

Before long, Lucia, who’s fascinated by the enigmatic foreign Count and his mysterious remarks on the subject of death, has succumbed utterly to the Count’s blood-sucking ways and become a vampire too, one of Dracula’s terrible ‘cult of the un-Dead…’

Now the ravishing Eva is starting to feel unwell also and eminent physician Dr. Van Helsing is extremely quick to diagnose ‘vampirism.’ His suspicions are confirmed when the suave Count Dracula pays a social visit to the Sewards and Dr. Van Helsing is able to observe that the Count casts no reflection in a mirror. This, of course, is one of the sure signs that someone is a vampire.

That, and a terrible fear of garlic and wolfbane, the two plants guaranteed to keep the vampires away, and also of all or any religious iconography, especially crosses. If you don’t have a cross handy, don’t worry your head about it.

You can always fashion one out of two sticks, or two pokers, or two matches, or even two of your own fingers. It’s only the merest suggestion of the cross that’s needed, according to some Hammer films, lol. Even the shadow of a cross will do at a pinch. (See the finale of BRIDES OF DRACULA…!)

Dracula is pissed off by Van Helsing and tries to bring the doctor’s mind under his control but Van Helsing only just manages to hold his own. It’s down to the good doctor, then, and Juan Harker, Eva’s distraught fiancé, to try to save Eva’s immortal soul from Count Dracula.

Eva is his real object. Lucia was just the starter, the aperitif, the warm-up act. It’s Eva he wants to be his wife, his companion, down through all the long, cold millenia to come. Count Dracula’s intended monstrous act of selfishness will cost Eva her life with her boyfriend and father, and in the end her soul too.

The sets and costumes are gorgeous, and the final scenes, set in the eerie dungeons of Carfax Abbey, are as thrilling as in the English language version. The final scenes are longer here, however, and the ending isn’t as sudden as in the Bela version.

There’s even a nice extra touch in the Spanish film in that Dr. Van Helsing keeps a promise he made to Renfield to free that poor old fella’s soul from Dracula’s rancid grasp from all eternity.

The Spanish film is every bit as atmospheric and fog-wreathed as the Bela Lugosi version and, because it’s a good thirty or so minutes longer, you get a bit extra into the bargain. By the end of it, you don’t even query why everyone in England is speaking such fluent Spanish, lol. And Spanish is such a lovely, musical mellifluous language as well, and some of their words sound very similar to our own, you’ll have great fun figuring out which ones I mean.

Lupita Tovar is wonderful as Eva Seward, and in fact she only died recently, having lived to be well over the hundred-year mark, a remarkable feat in itself. I was delighted to find that she was still alive when I first discovered the existence of ‘The Spanish Version Of Dracula’ a couple of years ago, and then gutted when she died not long after in 2016. Still, fancy living to such a ripe old age! Maybe Dr. Van Helsing didn’t manage to purge all of Dracula’s black magic from her veins after all…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor