The Curse of La Llorona
Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids are soon drawn into a frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope to survive La Llorona's deadly wrath may be a disillusioned priest and the mysticism he practices to keep evil at bay, on the fringes where fear and faith collide.
If you’re a fan of the ever-expanding universe of The Conjuring, then it makes sense that The Curse of La Llorona would definitely be on your radar. It is the sixth addition to the franchise, joining other recent hits like The Nun and Annabelle in fleshing out the world first introduced by the original Conjuring back in 2013. It’s also the directorial debut of Michael Chaves (who will also be directing the upcoming Conjuring 3) and is, of course, produced by James Wan. Linda Cardellini (Strangeland), Raymond Cruz (From Dusk Till Dawn 2), Sean Patrick Thomas (Kemper, The Burrowers) and Patricia Velasquez (Mindhunters, The Mummy Returns) star.
The premise of The Curse of La Llorona finds its roots in Mexican folklore. La Llorona is a malevolent spirit said to be the ghost of a grieving mother who murdered her own children in the late 1600’s, only to sorely regret it immediately afterward, as one would hope. In death, La Llorona is doomed to walk the earth searching for the bodies of her dead little ones. She is also said to cause mayhem and misfortune in the lives of anyone who sees, hears, or crosses paths with her.
The film opens three centuries after the rumored events of the original legend took place – in Los Angeles of 1973. As inspiration for many a scary story, La Llorona is alive and well in spirit. Single mother and social worker Anna (Cardellini) is too no-nonsense to take the tales seriously when she first learns of them from a coworker whose children to have been terrorized by the spirit. However, she soon starts asking questions of her own when it starts to look as if her children are next on the grieving spirit’s list.
At first glance, that definitely sounds like the makings of a pretty good horror flick, but is La Llorona really worth your time, or are you better off skipping it? Although you might be tempted to make your decision based on how you feel about other films that occupy the same universe, it may be worth your while to judge this one individually instead.
Often, the quality of the actual scares and the authenticity of the atmosphere are the hallmarks of a really great horror movie, and La Llorona does a good job of delivering on that front. You’ll see classic devices you’ll recognize not only from the other films in the Conjuring universe, but many other ghost stories as well. Children sleepwalk, characters suffer from troubling blackouts, and doors creak ominously without any apparent cause. However, as predictable as those devices can be, you’ll likely find yourself on tenterhooks as you watch anyway.
La Llorona brings some truly original (and almost poetic) scenes to the table as well. Some of the scares are relatively unexpected and feel a lot fresher than most viewers were probably expecting. There’s also quite a bit of care given to when, how, and where the spirit herself makes her troubling appearances. Many of the effects are not only frightening, but quite stunning visually – a real plus for a film about the spirit of a broken, disgraced mother turned murderer. Linda Cardellini also shines in her role, as she does in many of her films, even if she is a little underutilized at times.
While The Curse of La Llorona isn’t exactly Oscar material, most horror fans probably aren’t expecting it to be. Many of the suspense tactics are also over-used, which adds a bit of tedium to the story. But, it is a very effective ghost story, as well as a solid addition to the universe of The Conjuring.