Review: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ creeps around delivering scares Special

Posted Apr 23, 2019 by Sarah Gopaul
‘The Curse of La Llorona’ is the latest chapter in ‘The Conjuring’ franchise, giving a first-time director the chance to prove he knows what makes a good horror movie.
A scene from ‘The Curse of La Llorona’
A scene from ‘The Curse of La Llorona’
Warner Bros. Pictures
It’s only been six years since director James Wan invited audiences into a terrifying universe of malevolent spirits and possessed items. Several filmmakers have since taken the helm to frighten viewers with a historic tale of demonic hauntings, spanning many years to explore the scariest accounts and alarming origin stories. The latest picture expands this universe and makes room for yet another horrifying creature tormenting innocent families. The Curse of La Llorona is a story steeped in a legend that turns out to be true as the weeping woman stalks families before claiming their children for herself.
Anna (Linda Cardellini) is a good social worker and, since her husband’s death suddenly left her a single parent, a good mother. Though it’s been difficult to balance work and home, she strives to give 100 per cent of her attention to both. When she’s called upon to visit a long-time client whose children have been absent from school, she’s shocked to find the home in disarray and the mother (Patricia Velasquez) raving about a woman who’s trying to take her children. Unable to understand the threat, Anna follows protocol with fatal results. Now, La Llorona has marked her own kids (Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) and their only hope of survival is an ex-priest (Raymond Cruz) with unconventional tactics.
[i]The Conjuring[/i] franchise has generally prided itself on finding a thrilling balance between jump scares and pervasive creepiness. With a few exceptions, producers have developed one of the most consistently chilling film series in some time. This movie, set in the ‘70s, fits comfortably in the genre and style, though it’s not without its holes and curiosities. The weeping woman tends to appear slowly in places people feel safe, making her invasion all the more frightening. Moreover, her focus on the defenseless children who are often seen hopelessly scurrying away like mice is disturbing — particularly when they’re trapped in a maze of shifting storage boxes.
Though the film begins in a more distant past, La Llorona’s story isn’t revealed immediately. It takes some time to find out the details of her curse, though how to stop her is more a case of trial and error. However, there are a couple of things left unexplained in the film that some may find irksome. The significance of the necklace that plays a late role in the picture is potentially on a cutting room floor somewhere, but it would’ve been nice to better understand it. More significantly is the apparition’s command of wind/air even though one would expect her primary element to be water based on her history.
Overall, director Michael Chaves’ feature debut is a haunting horror movie that embraces the build-up and doesn’t require jump scares at regular intervals. Borrowing some of the classic scare tactics of beloved films, such as Evil Dead, he demonstrates an understanding of the genre and its techniques. Cardellini is great as the concerned mother forced to believe in the supernatural, while Cruz is an unexpected source of (dark) humour.
Director: Michael Chaves
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz and Patricia Velasquez