In 1991 Madrid, three teenage girls play with a Ouija board when they should be observing a solar eclipse. They invite something from the underworld into their lives, and it follows one of them home to threaten her family.
This was another great horror movie, made especially strong by the performances of its young actors. Sandra Escacena as Verónica is especially believable as an awkward teen, in part because she was herself on 16 when she played the part; her three younger siblings are perfectly lovable and annoying as only younger siblings can be. Because we’re let into the tiny dramas of their daily lives–Verónica is in charge of wrangling her siblings to and from school because their mother works late at the restaurant, and she struggles to keep them fed and dressed and on time while also trying to be a normal girl–we are deeply invested in the huge drama of a demonic presence that is trying to destroy them. Horror movies work best when we care about the characters in peril, and it’s impossible not to care about this family.
I also loved “Sister Death,” the creepy, blind old nun who gives Verónica the key to dismissing the demon. One expects an old Spanish nun to rain down hellfire and brimstone on a girl who toys with the dark arts, but she doesn’t; one imagines that Sister Death was once like Verónica herself long ago. When Verónica asks if there’s a religious solution to the evil presence, the sister tells her to “leave God out of this” and gives her practical advice on bidding farewell to the dangerous thing. I can imagine a creepy prequel that tells the story of how “Sister Death” blinded herself because of the evil things she could see (and how her blindness in no way prevents her from “seeing” those things), but it’s just effective as a scary hint that there’s far more to this story than we see in the film.