THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019)

  • Release Date: 18/04/2019
  • Cast: Linda Cardellini, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Patricia Velasquez
  • Director: Michael Chaves

There is a Mexican folklore about a beautiful lady who was madly in love with a handsome man. She was called La Llorona. One day she found the man in the arms of another woman. Betrayed by her lover, her angst knew no bounds and in a fit of rage, she killed both her children drowning them in a stream. When she came back to her senses, she could no longer cope with the remorse of what she had done and killed herself. But God didn’t take her spirit into his folds and cursed her to roam the earth looking for her dead children for eternity. Thus began the legend of La Llorona, the weeping woman who would devour any child who could hear her weep. The film tells us the story of a single mother Anna (Linda Cardellini) and her two children who are targeted by La Llorona in 1973 America.

One of the fortes of the film is its performances. Linda Cardellini plays a single mother who is dealing with the loss of her husband and the problems that it poses to bring up her children who not only miss their father but are matured enough to support their mother emotionally. Cardellini beautifully brings to life the character and extent she is willing to go to help children as she is able to connect with their pain. The audience will be able to connect with her from the get-go. When the haunting starts she emotes perfectly how a mother with no idea of what was happening to her children would. The fact that she shares a wonderful chemistry with the children also elevates her act. Raymond Cruz is charming. He isn’t in the film for too long but the amount of time he spends on screen he makes the most of it making you stand up and take notice. He has a trademark deadpan humor associated with his act which suits him really well. There are also moments when you feel that there might be more to his character than what meets the eye and these moments make us like his act even more.

Children can always be relied upon to do their very best and in that Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen are no exception. It isn’t easy to act in horror films as you have no markers to react to. However, when you see the acts of Roman and Jaynee, you will never feel that they are having problems envisioning the fear. The fact that they are perfect in the sequence where they don’t have to run screaming or look petrified only makes their act that much more astounding.

The Curse of La Llorona had the potential to be great. To start with the film had an interesting and affecting story to tell that had its root in legends. Any story that we have grown up listening to has roots in our subconscious and the director Michael Chaves could have easily used that trait of the story to his advantage. There was also no dearth of material to take the story places. The story being set in Mexico, Chaves could have easily used the backdrop as a different means to offer an interesting visual palette. The topography and the socio-economic milieu of Mexico would have been an interesting addition to the whole experience. The horror and shock value associated with children at risk and what the weeping woman was capable of doing could have been used with creativity.

Unfortunately, the director shuns the door on all those possibilities and gives us the most generic version of the rendering of the story possible ticking all the checkboxes on the list “essentials of Hollywood horror”. Jump scares, eerie music, characters going to places that no person in his/her right mind would go to, expositions and an unremarkable execution of the lore are all that we get in the film. I wasn’t even startled in any of the scenes or the jump scares for that matter and it was not for the lack of intent but for the simple reason that I could see the jump scares coming from miles. Once the horror is taken out of a horror film, it does lose its primary shine no matter how good the performances or any other aspects of it are.

The director, also for some strange reasons, decides to set the film in America when a better idea would have been to shoot it in Mexico. Thus in doing that he successfully robs the film of a diverse visual palette that would have definitely made things a bit more aesthetically interesting. The film also leaves a lot of unanswered questions and that’s never a good thing when you are making a run-of-the-mill horror film. It doesn’t add to the charisma of the story but leaves people unsatisfied in the end. The film also ties into the Conjuring universe in an obscure way which I believe was unnecessary.

The Curse of La Llorona had the potential to be an interesting film. It had all the ingredients to be a scary and affecting film but the treatment and the execution spoil what could have easily been one of the best horror films of the year. It has good performances and an interesting story on its side but that doesn’t count for anything when a horror film fails to scare you or affect you that too with children as the primary targets. It’s about time, the studio pays heed to the depleting Conjuring franchise as it is something I would hate to see go down the gutter.

Rating: 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)    

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