Horror Club: The Curse of La Llorona
New to theaters this weekend is the much anticipated The Curse of La Llorona - a film that's gained a lot of interest due to its inclusion to the Conjuring Universe. While it may not be a Conjuring film per se, it most definitely feels like it came straight out of the series, and it tells a pretty wicked, disturbing story that is shockingly dark considering the movie was released in theaters on the Christian holiday of Good Friday, which makes it all the more awesome. With its roots based on real life Mexican folklore, The Curse of La Llorona is undoubtedly going to appeal to fans of the jump scare tactic, but don't let that deter you from spending an hour and a half with this film: the story it tells is worth the watch, just don't expect to leave the theater shaking in your boots. So when the sun goes down, hug your children close... because the ghost of La Llorona wants them.
Readers beware! The following review contains spoilers; proceed with caution!
The basis for the film takes us back to Mexico in 1673 where a beautiful woman marries a wealthy man, and they have two perfect sons together. Legend has it that the husband begins to fall out of love with the woman as he sets his eyes on a younger woman, and the mother - in a fit of anger and rage - drowns her two sons in the river to take away the beautiful children they had together. When she comes to terms with what she had done, she began to weep for her deceased children, which is how she earned her name "La Llorona" which translates to "The Weeping Woman." Fast forward to the 1973 Los Angeles, and La Llorona (played by Marisol Ramirez) haunts families and children as she tries to claim the children as her own, and after they are in her grasp, she drowns the children much like she did to her own. "The Curse of La Llorona" follows the story of Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) - a widowed CPS worker - her son Chris (Roman Christou) and her daughter Sam (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). As a CPS worker, Anna finds herself in the home of a woman named Patricia (Patricia Velásquez), and she finds that the woman had locked her two sons in the closet with a lock and key. This was obviously a call for concern from Anna, who has the children taken away from Patrica for the night. Little did Anna know, this closet was a form of protection from La Llorona, and she eventually haunts the two sons and drowns them in a nearly canal. Their mother - being blamed for the death of her sons - confronts Patricia while being questioned about the deaths and tells Anna that she has been praying to La Llorona, telling her to take Anna's children and to give hers back. It is then that the curse is turned on the Garcia household as La Llorona comes after Sam and Chris - which is the story you'll be told during the course of "The Curse of La Llorona." With little help from the church, Anna and her family turn to badass local shaman Rafael (Raymond Cruz) to help break the curse and banish La Llorona not only from their home, but from their lives all together. Will their attempt work, or will La Llorona's hold on the children ultimately end in their demise?!
The first thing that really caught my attention and interest in "The Curse of La Llorona" before it was even released was definitely the fact that it was based on actual folklore - and going into the film, it's pretty clear from the get-go that the influence inspires the film almost to the tee. While some details here and there were changed, the majority of the real Mexican folklore is there, and the translation from story to big screen is amazingly done. The story of La Llorona is a pretty dark and twisted one to begin with, and writers Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis along with director Michael Chaves (who is also directing The Conjuring 3) truly managed to capture the eerie, unsettling folklore and translate it into a sick film adaptation. The non-folklore story line - that of Anna and her family - adds an interesting and intriguing twist onto the legend, and it makes for a good watch. While the story - in my opinion - is enough to warrant a watch of the film, it's the amount (and reliance) on the modern day jump scare tactic that will turn a lot of horror fans off as they write the film off as just another jump scare flick. While it's true you'll get your haunts in the form of La Llorona's ghostly appearance popping out of all corners of the house, there are definitely some cleverly done scenes and appearances that - while they may not have you screaming at the top of your lungs - definitely at least look cool.
The overall look and atmosphere "The Curse of La Llorona" puts you in is certainly unsettling, to say the least. The films got this dark cloud that hangs over it whenever you are inside of the Garcia household, and it adds to the creep factor of the film. But its the appearance of La Llorona herself that really steals the show, with her long white gown, cold corpse white skin, and demonically yellow eyes - to a child and adult alike, she's terrifying as fuck. Appearance aside, it's her haunting weeping that she does that will lure you into her grasp, and that really ups the ante for how macabre this character is. Put her alongside fellow Conjuring Universe haunts like Annabelle, Bathsheba, and Valak, and she fits right in beautifully in terms of terror. Like I mentioned earlier, she definitely both looks and feels like a Conjuring demon, and it totally worked for me. Ghostly woman aside, you'll find yourself rooting for the two real stars of the film: Roman Christou as he plays Chris and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen's portrayal of his sister Sam. I'm admittedly not the biggest fan of children actors in horror (just was never my thing), but these two did a phenomenal job with their facial expressions and body language alone. The look of sheer terror that these two managed to portray was totally stellar and should be noted in any review of the film you read. While some of their characters actions may be questionable (cough Sam cough), their job acting was definitely great. But that's not to say that Linda Cardellini and Raymond Cruz fell behind, because after the duo link up in an attempt to banish La Llorona from the house, they become the next best set of characters in the Conjuring Universe outside of the Warrens themselves, if you ask me. Cruz's addition to the film as a shaman was fucking outstanding, and his attitude added that extra bit of awesome to the film. Overall, the casting of the movie was really well done and helps to only enhance the story.
To sum it all up, is La Llorona worth your time? Let me put it this way, the Conjuring Universe series of films is now six films deep, so by now you should know whether you like these movies and stories yet, and whether or not you enjoy the way that they are presented. If you enjoy this universe, the characters, stories and scares, "The Curse of La Llorona" is a must-see in theaters, and you'll undoubtedly have a great time. If you don't enjoy jump scares, eerie (but not scary) scenes and arguably cheesy endings, maybe wait for this one to come to Netflix. I'd still say its worth your time simply because the folklore - and the Mexican traditions portrayed in the film - is excellent, and the way it is presented is equally excellent; you just won't enjoy the scare tactics or over-the-top fights against evil (which includes a totally sick underwater fight, can't say I've seen that in a horror before). But for the rest of us, "The Curse of La Llorona" is another great, haunting addition to this massive and beloved franchise.