A widowed social worker (Linda Cardellini) in child protection services struggles to balance her demanding job with raising her son and daughter. Of course these troubles mean nothing when all three come under the grip (both literally and figuratively) of La Llorona, or the weeping woman, a ghost who drowned her children and is now out for fresh blood.
While horror fans may have been excited for ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ as the latest Conjuring Universe film, its connection to the scary series is loose, with a side note to Annabelle being the only reference. Worse still is the fact that if you’re looking for something scary (as you’d expect from, well, a horror), you won’t find it here. This particular reviewer is typically a wuss and found nothing frightening about it. In fact, the audience she witnessed it with increasingly laughed as the film became more and more ridiculous and terrible.
‘La Llorona’ utilises the notion that horrors are all the more frightening when children are in danger. However it never exploits this in a fresh or engrossing way. Moments such as a car window rolling down by itself or a figure appearing in the window are so clichéd as to be comical. And while there are some interesting aspects going for it, such as a 70s setting and Hispanic characters, such cultural themes are set up and never explored, resulting in a hollow, dull scarefest - which isn’t even scary. You have to hand it to the cinematographer Michael Burgess (who has some impressive credits behind him, like ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Logan’) that he has studied his classics. But the movie is so by-the-numbers that you feel in no way compelled to know how it works out. And you just know it’s not even being formulaic ironically because it’s so earnest and tryhard.
None of the performances, even from the likes of Linda Cardellini or Raymond Cruz (whose priest character is funny on purpose, for once), are in any way extraordinary, though Patricia Velásquez (‘The Mummy Returns’) at least emits some kind of feeling in her role. Overall though, there are two overarching flaws that damn ‘La Llorona.’ Firstly, there’s the villain herself. She is revealed too soon (haven’t they learned from ‘Jaws’?) and not scary looking. One recalls ‘The Nun’ in the design of La Llorona, and indeed various aspects of the film indicate it’s trying hard to follow in its footsteps (After ‘The Nun’ made $365.6 million against a $22 million budget, can you blame it?). Secondly, the jump scares are far too numerous and frequent. When you come to expect them at every corner, they lose all effect.
On the bright side, ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ is enjoyably bad. It’s funny, though unintentionally so, with the least believable part being when they’re sharing one takeaway pizza for dinner between four people. I mean, c’mon.