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REVIEW: The Curse of La Llorona [2019]

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edited April 2019 in Movie Reviews
A hell of a jump-scare-filled horror movie!

PEx Reviewer: pabzicles
PEx Rating: 6/10
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

It is no wonder that the Curse of La Llorona is marketed with the phrase “From the producers of Conjuring Universe” but hearing the news that it is a part of the universe may seem absurd. Far from films like The Nun and Annabelle that sprung from the Conjuring films themselves, it is based on Mexican folklore that Ed and Lorraine Warren never even investigated. Sure, its makers tried to show connection by providing a cameo of Father Perez from Anabelle (Tony Amendola) but it is rather a shallow one. In an era where being a part of a franchise is a sure-fire way to guarantee a film’s success, I can’t blame them for trying to fit in La Llorona but the moment that it incorporates too much of “Conjuring” in what seems to be a promising story causes this movie to not fully float from the water of the franchise or even the genre.

The film opens in a backstory of La Llorona set in 1673, Maria (Marisol Ramirez) drowns her two sons after being betrayed by her husband. Then we jump into the 1973 Los Angeles, where we meet Anna (Linda Cardellini), a recently widowed social worker and mother of two kids Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). Investigating a case that turns into abuse and neglect after discovering that her client Patricia (Patricia Velásquez), has her two boys locked up in a closet. Dismissing the supernatural explanation of Patricia, the boys are taken out from their mother’s custody, La Llorona soon takes the life of the boys and passed the curse to Anna’s children. Learning the truth right after, Anna turns to Father Perez, who points her to Rafael (Raymond Cruz), a former priest and practicing curandero (a folk healer) to get rid of the curse to her children.

Knowing nothing about La Llorona, I think there is no greater way to start it by giving us a backstory. Mikki Daughty and Tobias Iaconis (the duo who’ve written Five Feet Apart (2019)) try to evoke an emotional response by showing us this tragic story. I got to admit that I was hooked on its intriguing prologue and having the script circling on the concept of loss and grief is worth investing. Right then we are introduced to Anna, a great character played by Linda Cardellini, a widowed woman who must make both ends meet for her son and daughter. Having a Latino husband, biracial kids is also an interesting setup on how the story will flesh out. But then, with all these slight notions of single working mom, grief, loss, mixed-race children and this Latin America curse of La Llorona; the story gets sidetracked half way when it tried to pastiche a James Wan horror without fully formed characters. Its writers failed to mine way too many great concepts that will serve as connective tissue.

The franchise answer to diversity revolving Mexican folklore and three interesting women characters Maria, Patricia and Anna that in many ways similar; are pushed down by inconsistencies and silliness of its plot. How does La Llorona choose her child victim in the first place? Well, the logical thing I’ve come up is that she terrorize Latin children because legend says she has mistaken these children as her sons. So it is a no-brainer that after the death of Patricia’s sons it will be passed on to Anna’s because again her kids are bi-racial. But then on its third act, the writers tried to give a shocking revelation that is hilarious. Even Anna and her kids are silly enough not to act in a normal manner. Chris is grabbed by La Llorona leaving a burning mark on his hand but keep insisting that it just in his mind. Samantha reaching for her doll outside the house instead of being fearful if she breaks the barrier created to prevent the weeping woman from entering the house. And finally, Anna, a wife of police, who seems to know nothing about house security. But there is no denying that Linda Cardellini’s portrayal is a sure stand out from the rest and proves that she can spearhead a movie if given with a decent script.

La Llorona is really scary. Her gothic makeup and veiling presence will give you chills. And heck even her cries is dreadful, the closest similarity I can think of is the weeps of The Witch in the game Left 4 Dead. But her nature as a ghost is not properly defined. There are times that she can walk through walls but can be stopped by concrete materials such as car doors and glass. I am also troubled by somewhat unmatched production design of the film that feels more like contemporary rather than the supposed 70’s era.

Surprisingly, Michael Chaves shows impressive directing chops in his directorial debut. He knows how to stage a frightening scene, spine-chilling atmosphere combined with blasting sound mix that will truly make you jump out of your seat. Together with Michael Burgess, they provide inventive camerawork and visually appealing horror movie from mirroring haunting image into splash of water, breaking mirrors, a swimming pool that seems big as an ocean. Add to it are his admirable shifting of angles from Dutch to eye level and zoom. There is a specific scene here where I sort of remember the greenish grading that is used in late horror films.  All of those are proof that Chaves in some way try to put a signature to his film if not for the formulaic script that makes his haunting efforts repetitive.

In conclusion, Curse of La Llorona is a hell of a jump scare-filled horror movie. A harmless and formulaic addition to the ever-expanding Conjuring universe. Technically impressive, thanks to Michael Chaves direction, inventive camerawork and spine chilling atmosphere but watered down by its slim narrative and unmatched production design. La Llorona does what she does best and horror fans won’t deny her supernatural existence. Hearing someone weeps won’t ever be the same again!

Directed by: Michael Chaves; Written By: Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis; Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez; Running Time: 1 hour and 33 minutes; MTRCB Rating: TBD

The Curse of La Llorona opens in Cinemas May 1. Sneak previews on April 22 & 23.

Check out the official discussion thread here: #LaLlorona


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