A Brief History
On April 19, 2019, horror movie fans get another installment in the Annabelle/Conjuring movie universe, this time called The Curse of La Llorona. The premise of the film revolves around a Mexican folk tale of a long passed beautiful mother that murders (drowns) her children, and haunts living mothers and their children today, seeking to steal the children for herself. Set in the United States of 1973, an American widow and her children are faced with the horror of La Llorona (“The Weeping Woman”) and her murderous intent. Who can save them from La Llorona? Can they be saved? (We know these answers, because we watched a pre-screening, but we do not provide spoilers!)
The folk tale is familiar to Mexican children being scared into good behavior by their parents, and the story has previously been adapted for the big screen (1960 and 1933) as well as television (Grimm, 2012). Songs and a cartoon have been made based on the subject as well. The background story is of beautiful small village girl that is swept off her feet by a rich and handsome stranger who marries the girl against the wishes of his family. They have 2 beautiful boys and the husband eventually strays, causing the enraged mother to drown her children in an effort to take from the husband the things he cherishes most. She is immediately contrite, and weeps unconsolably, eventually drowning herself. The ghost of the weeping woman stays on the Earth to prey upon other children, killing them in an effort to trade the souls of these new victims for the return of her own children.
Enter actress Linda Cardellini as Anna Tate-Garcia, the widow of a police officer and social services enforcement employee with 2 kids of her own, a boy and a girl. In the course of her job, she crosses paths with a mother of Mexican heritage that is keeping her children locked up where La Llorona cannot get at them. Without spoiling the film for you, we jump now to the part where La Llorona targets Anna and her children, leaving the incredulous and desperate woman to seek assistance from her local church, which happens to have a Mexican priest as pastor. The priest advises that the Church moves in slow, deliberate steps, and refers Anna to a defrocked priest that works free-lance as an exorcist. Again, without revealing plot details, a battle ensues for the lives and souls of Anna, her children and the ex-priest.
Acting, special effects, and make up are excellent, though limited settings hint toward a fairly low budget. Given that the other Conjuring movies were spectacularly profitable, we expect The Curse of La Llorona to continue that same profitability. Another key aspect of the film are the little jokes sprinkled here and there, not so many as to be distracting, but judging from the laughing in the audience ones that work as intended. The funny inserts do not take away from the horror for long, as the gasps and jumps of the theater goers indicate the tension and anxiety expected of a proper horror film are still fully at work. Director Michael Chaves also directed The Conjuring 3, so he is already a veteran of the franchise and obviously knows what to do with the idea of a malevolent ghost. Like most horror movies, La Llorona does not drag on interminably, and moves quickly with attention keeping pace toward its 93 minute conclusion.
Other critics have moaned about the film’s reliance on “jump scares,” but we believe jump scares are a staple part of horror movies and disagree with labeling those scenes as “cheap.” They work. Some commenters have decried the little jokes (not that many) inserted into the film, but as stated above, we do not think those jokes detract from the horror. Critical aggregate website, Rotten Tomatoes, gives the film a paltry 28% approval rating and a score of only 4.5 out of 10, but we politely disagree. We like horror movies, and we believe that if you are a horror movie fan, especially if you previously enjoyed any of the Conjuring universe movies, you will also enjoy La Llorona. If scary ghosts are not your bag, perhaps you will not be scared enough to enjoy the film. Metacritic, another composite critics site, gave La Llorona an average score of only 38/100, further baffling us. Seriously, you go to a horror movie because you like horror movies. La Llorona is a decent horror movie that we believe horror fans will find entertaining, so go watch it and find out for yourself, as long as you are not prone to nightmares!
Rated R for the violent theme (we guess), the film is not particularly gory or gratuitous in its violence, though it is likely to scare young children, especially those predisposed toward fear of ghosts. Heck, the basis of the film is a scary story meant to scare kids! Use discretion in whether or not to bring sensitive or younger children to the movie.
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For more information, please see…
Hayes, Joe. La Llorona / The Weeping Woman. Cinco Puntos Press, 2006.
Jones, Stephen. The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated History. Applause, 2017.
The featured image in this article, a scaled-down, low-resolution image of poster for the film The Curse of La Llorona, qualifies as fair use under the copyright law of the United States.