All in the Family

Possession movies are sleight of hand. While questions of good versus evil, the devil versus god, seem to be what their narratives are about, what they really posit are the things that imperil a society. For William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, what’s at stake is the body of a rich white girl, a representation of purity in 1970’s America. That Friedkin’s film should be asking  is there a higher authority or if that has been corrupted is perhaps more to do with the social travails of the Vietnam war, Watergate, and the sexual revolution. Often what’s at stake in these films is not the actual body of the female protagonist, but the peril this intrusion has on a much larger scale. For a movie like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the possession of the protagonist symbolizes the intrusion of the court systems in interpreting facts, of faith versus science. The possession movie offers us a red herring, giving the viewer the good versus evil trope, while analyzing a cultural ill.

Veronica, a possession movie by Paco Plaza’s is aimed at the concept of womanhood. The film is set in Spain with the main protagonist Veronica(Sandra Escacena) a highschool girl in charge of a brood of children, left to her by a working mother and a recently deceased father. The film starts with Veronica getting the children ready, making their breakfast, helping with a forgotten project, while the children’s mother sleeps off a long night. The film asserts a premise of a child taking care of children, a young woman who the film takes great pains to say has not yet begun to menstruate, but who has been enlisted in the role of mother. Entrusted with the care of a young family, Veronica wants to escape the strangling environment. Collecting a book on the occult and a Weegie Board, Veronica, along with a couple of friends, contact her deceased father during an eclipse. The set-up is pure pulp horror. Early in the movie a sunburst shines down on Veronica’s womb, displaying the shape of an eclipse. The planetary metaphor of the sun smothering out the more ‘feminine’ moon is plenty apt here and once Veronica has made contact with something on the other side she thinks is her father, strange phenomenon continue to happen mimicking puberty. Veronica discovers dark blood colored stains under her mattress, finding them also under her siblings. In one particular scene, Veronic envisions the demonic figure, a hoary shadow in most scenes as her nude father, glaring at her through possessed zombish eyes. Her concerns are met with scorn by her classmates who are not caretakers, deflecting the notions that something is wrong as her own mania. The only person who listens is a blind nun working at the Catholic school Veronica and her friends attend. The nun, a woman past her fertile years, understands what has happened. Yet, the other nuns at the church treat her as useless. Here between the space of fertility lies the answer to how Veronica can send the evil shade haunting her house back to where it came from.

What does this say about young womanhood and the spirit that seemingly comes to haunt a young girl after she’s reached puberty? Veronica and her siblings fight to get rid of this invading spirit. Yet despite good intentions, Veronica’s brother welcomes the invading spirit in, and eventually is kidnapped, forcing Veronica to sacrifice herself in order to save him. Veronic appears to question what it means to be a woman and how this change from child to adult, invites pervasive spirits that wreck the home. Veronica’s possession is less bodily than about her home, about some evil spirit brought on by her father’s absence coming into the family. Veronica is a prisoner, caught between childhood and adulthood. Her ultimate sacrifice is not like Father Karass who invites the evil spirit within him to save the girl. Veronica’s ultimate sacrifice is for the peace of the domestic sphere, to stabilize the home and allow the other children to stay children. Veronica sacrifices herself so that her mother can realize the family was in danger. Veronica is a modern possession movie with flourishes of old school horror. The premise though is keyed into the political, social climate of today, where the body of women and what they mean to the life of society are in constant negotiation. Veronica askes interesting questions. Does protecting the home come at the sacrifice of the growth of young women?  If they are constantly eclipsed, pun intended, then exactly who are they and what destructive passions might possess them as they try to escape these domestic prisons.

 

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