Halloween month and all is right in the world. Or rather, the world has gone to shit on this side of the Atlantic and across the pond, as Jill and I have been discussing for the last couple of days – but we can always relieve our fears for an hour or so by watching true terror unfold. The question is, which is more terrifying: US/UK politics or a sadistic soul-snatching demon?
Madrid, 1991. A teen girl finds herself besieged by an evil supernatural force after she played Ouija with two classmates.
This is ‘loosely’ based on true events, a fact I will leave with you because knowing and believing that will make this an infinitely more frightening tale. It is 1991 and Verónica (Sandra Escacena), our 15-year-old protagonist has been having a time of it. Having recently lost her father, she is expected to look after her three siblings pretty much full-time while her mother works long hours to keep them all afloat. (I’ll not have a word said against Momma who is doing her fucking best. They all are).
Verónica’s siblings are the twins, Lucia and Irene – and her brother AKA the sweetest kid in cinematic history, Antoñito (Iván Chavero). The four of them muddle on but still bicker as brothers and sisters are wont to do. Antoñito has a habit of wetting the bed but is so adorable that you could never be mad at him for long, if ever.
During a lesson at school, on the same day as a solar eclipse, the teacher bangs on about how some ancient cultures use eclipses to summon dark spirits. Verónica and her pals Rosa and Diana already have their own plans and a Ouija board ready to go as soon as the light fades – and all I want to do is scream at the screen: For the love of God DON’T DO IT, girls!
But this would be a short, boring film if they listened to my advice, wouldn’t it?
While the rest of the school, including Verónica’s brother and sisters are on the roof looking through negatives at the sun, the girls are in the basement with the board. V’s end goal is to make contact with her dad, while Diana’s boyf was killed in a motorcycle accident and she wouldn’t mind a chat with him too. Unfortunately, it soon becomes apparent that something isn’t right. The glass on the Ouija heats up to an unbearable temperature but V doesn’t move her hand – and at the exact point of the eclipse, it shatters and she cuts her finger, bleeding all over the board. Then she slips into a catatonic state before screaming like a banshee.
After passing out the school nurse asks if she’s on her period which admittedly does sometimes feel like being possessed by a goddamn demon – but is not the root of all her woes this time around, woman. After that V experiences many strange occurrences, and things get creepier and creepier – naked dad turns up in the night and then changes into a demon, Antoñito gets burnt in the bath, that sort of thing.
Bites and scratches begin to appear all over V’s body and she’s haunted by things that go bump in the day (and night). All the while her BFFs start to avoid her and leave her out because they’re frankly scared of her and she is forced to turn to one of the school’s nuns, “Sister Death” for her help.
Sister Death is an elderly blind-badass who kicks her arse for being so careless during the eclipse then explains that a dark spirit has attached itself to V during the seance. When she tries to dispel it, nothing happens.
*Note, Sister Death is my fave character as she embraces the macabre nickname the kids have given her, stating that it’s more interesting that her actual name. QUEEN.
You OK, hun?
So Sis Death pretty much just tells V to protect her siblings and hope for the best. She also states that V can force the spirit to leave by doing right on what she did wrong (e.g. waking it up in the first place). V realises (all too late one suspects) that she never signed off on the Ouija and tries to convince Rosa and Diana to get back on the horse so they can say ta-ra to the demon. Realistically but also disappointingly, both girls respond to this request with a resounding “FUCK NO” – and V is on her own.
Forced to do the seance with the kids instead, shit kicks off big style when Antoñito accidentally draws an invocation symbol on the walls, rather than one of protection. Rookie mistake, kiddo but you’re too sweet, I swear. And from here it all goes bat shit as the little cutie is snatched by the demon (who is truly, mind-numbingly hideous).
V calls the po po and helps the twins escape the building and then stays to rescue Antoñito and fight the demon. She uncovers a shocking truth about the whole situation in the process. But will poor Verónica get out before it’s too late?
You know the drill.
This film isn’t bad and does offer some truly freaky moments but it’s ultimately easy to forget. Escacena as our titular character is very good and likeable so you’ll leave this feeling a little bit sorry for how shit turns out.
I can only imagine how a teenage girl already grabbling with grief and adolescence would feel also having to protect her family from a demon. Like, cut the girl some slack. It all feels very much like a metaphor for burgeoning womanhood and proof as always that men, even from Hell will do anything in their power to sap the energy and vitality out of any woman they can.
Except you Antoñito. You’re golden.