J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Brooklyn Horror ’17: Veronica

When was the last time a psychologist actually helped a patient in any movie? Perhaps Arnaud Desplechin’s Jimmy P? And before that? David & Lisa maybe? Do not expect a lot of breakthroughs when a reclusive analyst reluctantly takes on a difficult patient. Instead, she should worry about surviving with her sanity in Carlos Algara & Alejandro Martinez-Beltran’s Veronica (trailer here), which screens tonight during the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

She might be a head-shrinker, but our unnamed psychologist still clearly wrestles with forms of agoraphobia and social anxiety. She continues to publish, but she no longer actively treats patients. Nonetheless, she cannot refuse her mentor when he refers a particularly hard case to her.

Veronica de la Serna has heard all the psycho-babble before and she takes perverse pleasure in spitting it back at the psychologist. Clearly, she has a great deal of anger and resentment. She also has sexual issues, which she recognizes in the psychologist, as well. After several rounds of testy verbal sparring, de la Serna focuses on her sexuality as her prime weapon for destabilizing the doctor. However, the shrink has a tool shed fully stocked with axes, chains, and sinister mushrooms.

Anyone who has seen their share of psych-you-out movies will probably guess the big old twist, but Algara & Martinez-Beltran execute it with great visual flair. Miguel Angel Gonzalez Avila’s stunning black-and-white cinematography has a Gregg Toland glow and the darkly ominous overtones of Dean Cundey’s work with John Carpenter. The good doctor’s lodge-cabin-villa is also a terrific horror movie location, making the Overlook in The Shining look conveniently subway accessible.

Olga Segura exudes danger and sexuality as the deeply threatening de la Serna. As the doctor, Arcelia Ramírez falls apart pretty spectacularly, while coyly maintaining her secrets. The two women play off each other quite well. Algara and Martinez-Beltran also keep them moving around the house and grounds at a sufficient clip to prevent a feeling of staginess from setting in.

Viewers of good conscience could debate whether Veronica really is a horror movie in the strictest sense or more of a psychological thriller. Either way, it is stylish and intense. Recommended for fans of dark mind-benders, Veronica screens tonight (10/13) at Video Revival and tomorrow (10/14) at Videology, as part of this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

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