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The Curse of La Llorona (2019) - Movie Review

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The Curse of La Llorona (2019) - Movie Review

An angry woman scorned eerily stalks the world’s rivers and waterways by night wearing a threadbare wedding gown as she looks for children to drown. This is the subject of the age-old Latin American folktale of La Llorona or “The Weeping Woman” that has fueled the nightmares of kids across wide swaths of the Americas. And you can experience the legend for yourself in the new film called The Curse of La Llorona from first-time director Michael Chavez.

Certainly a strong enough setup for an effectively creepy little horror film, and with generations of youngsters having grown up minding their Ps and Qs lest they face the weeping woman’s curse, this one should be a slam dunk, right? Well, it isn’t. Not even a connection – as negligible as it is – to the extended Conjuring universe is enough to save this potboiler from its own curse of bad decisions, lazy writing, and poor execution.

"this whole thing is a silly, clumsy, toothless mess that takes itself way too seriously."


The film begins in Mexico in the mid-1600s where we learn of a young bride who becomes so distraught at the discovery of her husband’s infidelities that she – for some unexplained reason – drowns her two young children in a nearby river.

This preamble is an important setup to the background, mystery, and legend of the Weeping Woman’s tale. A setup upon which the entire remainder of the film’s effectiveness will depend. Yet sadly, it is a huge missed opportunity as we spend less than 15 minutes with it and it provides very little insight into the woman’s story.

We all know that to be effective, a villain needs a convincing motivation. The weeping woman at the heart of the story doesn’t. For instance, the film’s tagline tells us that “She Wants Your Children.” But why does she want them? She had her own, yet killed them. Why does she want to kill more? Simply telling us doesn’t work. We must feel it.

In some better-written stories a villain can work by simply being plain scary. Unfortunately, The Curse of La Llorona's weeping woman isn’t. She’s just loud. And she has an annoying habit of popping out from darkened corners at regular intervals. In addition, despite the horrible nature of what she does to children, it isn’t very effective at drawing us in to the next phase of the story which flashes forward to 1970s Los Angeles where we meet a recently widowed social worker named Anna (Linda Cardellini) who is struggling to raise two children of her own.

When she discovers that one of her client’s (Patricia Valasquez) two young boys are being held captive in a locked closet by their mother, Anna removes them from the household and places them in a pediatric foster hospital where she believes they will be safe. What she doesn’t realize, is that the mother is hiding her boys from “La Llorona” who, inexplicably is after them. She tells Anna that if she doesn’t protect them, they will die.The Curse of La Llorona (2019) - Movie Review

Sure enough, the two boys turn up drowned in an L.A. drainage culvert and the mother blames Anna for their deaths. Could Anna’s own children be next on La Llorona’s list?

The film gets stuck in the rut of PG-13 horror and never manages any unique thoughts or slick gimmicks of its own to hold our attention. Don’t fall for the film’s R-rating. This is pure PG-13 material with loud noises, dark rooms, and things that go boo in the background. Thankfully, we don’t have any cats that drop from the ceiling. However, we do get a lot of other stupid horror things though. Things like unexplained power outages, mysterious breezes that blow curtains back, and mirrors that crack by themselves. And why do you go exploring a darkened house – that you know is possessed by an ancient spirit – without a flashlight? And no. Showing us the Annabelle doll (from the Conjuring films) lying on the floor isn’t scary.

The Curse of La Llorona is given a fresh breath when Anna brings in the services of a former priest (Raymond Cruz) who has since become some kind of faith healer and represents the only hope for Anna’s quest to rid her family of the curse of La Llorona. Cruz clearly realizes the ridiculousness of the material and is the only one who seems to be having fun with it, which kind of works because this whole thing is a silly, clumsy, toothless mess that takes itself way too seriously.

1 star

The Curse of La Llorona (2019) - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for violence and terror.
Runtime:
93 mins
Director
: Michael Chavez
Writer:
Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
Cast:
Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
She wants your children
Memorable Movie Quote: "It's your fault! I tried to stop her!"
Theatrical Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site: https://www.thecurseoflallorona.com/
Release Date:
April 19, 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 11, 2016
Synopsis: Set in 1973 Los Angeles, the film tells the story of Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), a social worker and widowed single mom struggling to balance the two roles while still coping with the loss of her husband.

As a skeptic serving a city of believers, Anna has navigated a multitude of phantoms and superstitions in her job, usually finding personal demons lurking beneath. So when she’s called to the home of Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez) and finds her two young sons locked in a closet, she interprets their terrified mother’s desperate efforts to keep them locked away as a dangerous sign of abuse.

Though Anna is determined to get Patricia the help she needs, her first concern is the safety of the children. But, because she is unaware of the very real danger they face, Anna has no idea what she’s about to unleash – or the devastation it will cause – when she places a psychiatric hold on their mother and takes the kids into protective custody.

In the deepest hours of the night, a haunting cry echoes through the corridors of the children’s shelter where the two boys sleep… When their bodies are later pulled from the river, their distraught mother lays the blame at Anna’s feet, and leaves her with an eerie warning: La Llorona has her children now… but Anna’s own could be next.

When darkness descends and her kids hear the weeping woman’s ominous cries, Anna is forced to confront the reality of Patricia’s claims: this legendary spirit is hunting children in modern-day Los Angeles…and her own small kids are her prey.

With nowhere else to turn, Anna puts her faith in Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz), a former priest-turned-curandero who has been preparing for this battle all his life. Bringing his powerful faith and arsenal of spiritual totems, Rafael bands together with Anna and her kids as they batten down the hatches and arm themselves for the onslaught when night falls and La Llorona unleashes the full force of her furious supernatural wrath.

The Curse of La Llorona (2019) - Movie Review

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