Monday, May 27, 2024

Veronica Is Ableist, Psychophobic and Incredibly Sad, but Not Very Scary

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Spoiler warnings for Veronica (2017) and The Babadook (2014).

Ever wondered what it would feel like to watch a movie made up of kids scaring each other while reading scary stories? Do you want to relive the feelings you’d get from believing in vague omens and other self-fulfilling prophecies provided by a Magic 8-ball? Well if that’s the case, Veronica is right for you!

Apparently this movie is very, very scary.

Yet I still don’t understand what I was supposed to be scared of. Okay, the effects were cool. Not scary though. There weren’t even jump scares – which is actually a good thing as they are cheap, but here it just makes the movie completely flat and therefore not “scary” at all. The only scene I considered vaguely creepy (in which you see a spirit reflection in the TV) got ruined by holding the camera on it for way too long – yeah, guys, we all saw the “spoopy” thing, and now you ruined it.

So what we’re left with is: a teen girl goes through her first experience with PMS and has a massive breakdown due to her awful, neglectful mother. Okay, that is legitimately scary, I won’t lie to you. These themes could be explored in a way to make it somewhat scary but, as I like to say, this was not the way to do it.

What’s the message in Veronica?

Veronica is everything I hated about The Babadook, but worse.

Now YMMV on The Babadook. As far as I’m concerned, I’m of the opinion (spoiler warning) that the real monster is the mother, who’s growing increasingly abusive and disturbed throughout the movie. However, the ending is ambiguous: is there a monster or not? I still don’t believe there was…I still believe this is now the kid buying into his mother’s delusional state – but at the very least, this movie did this ambiguous trope plausibly. In Veronica, I’m just not buying it.

In The Babadook, you can argue the mother is being somewhat punished for being neglectful and abusive. Or her neglect and abuse are the true source of this monster terrorizing her.

But what’s going on in Veronica? What’s the message?

Girl plays with a Ouija board (boring, tired old trope); gets possessed (maybe); grows increasingly unstable and (spoiler warning) dies tragically.

In retrospect, Veronica’s breakdown is easy to predict. And that’s the problem: I knew the movie was going in The Babadook direction from very early on. You might want to play this trope with caution, or it may end up being: mental illness is so spooky!

Disability and Mental illness Are Scary!

See this character?

Blind people are scary!
Blind people are scary!

I thought she was a ghost or a demon coz she looks sooo scary. Well, no. She’s alive and well. She’s just an elderly blind nun. How terrifying…?

Veronica wasn’t scary; it was sad. Extremely sad. And not in the way most ghost movies make me sad (it’s a weird quirk of mine). It was frustratingly sad. The fact it was presumably inspired by a true story (riiiiight) makes it even sadder.

It’s clear throughout the movie that the title character is increasingly unwell. Her mother is neglectful and forces her, as the elder, to take care of her younger sibling, though she’s only a teenager herself. This is a lot of pressure, which her mother puts on her constantly through borderline abusive “you must grow up and help me be a substitute parent because your father is dead and no longer here to help” lectures.

Veronica’s father has passed away, and her mother is not letting her mourn. It’s the premise of the story: why Veronica seeks a way to contact him through a Ouija board. I am myself trying to deal with grief – it’s hard, it’s tough. Not doing it right will screw you up.

One final thing: Veronica gets her first period during the movie. A nurse basically shames her for not having had her periods yet at 15. But she does get them. I do clearly remember my first periods were preceded by a lot of incomprehensible feelings of panic, which is what most of the movie can be summed up as.

No one, not her mother, no teacher (actually one of them makes it all worse), not even her bff are helping. Instead, they act like total assholes. Let’s talk of the blind nun for a minute: she’s the one telling her she needs to protect her siblings from the demonic spirit she may have conjured…which in turn is what makes her become the demon towards her siblings? She also tells her God can’t help her, which IMO is a very strange thing for a nun to say.

I get no enjoyment out of watching a teenage girl’s “psychological decline” – as one reviewer puts it (wtf?) – because everyone gives up on her. Why does any of this happen? Because she shouldn’t have played Ouija? Because she shouldn’t have acted like a teenager, and been displeased with not getting to mourn her dad, or how her neglectful mom forced her, at 15, to take care of her annoying, younger siblings? What exactly are we “punishing” her for here, as in, why does she have to go through any of this?

I expected the movie to end with death and tragedy, but she was the least deserving of it. I’d recommend steering clear from Veronica: trust me, it won’t be fun at all.

Images courtesy of Netflix

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