The following is a review of The Curse of La Llorona — Directed by Michael Chaves.
Though the film’s marketing hasn’t done a good enough job of alerting audiences of this, The Curse of La Llorona is the latest film in the Conjuring-film universe made popular by James Wan. Unfortunately, much like the first Annabelle-film and The Nun, this, the third spin-off film in the film series, is another let-down, and, now, there are as many bad films in the connected horror film universe as there are good. Hence, the good no longer outweighs the bad.
Michael Chaves’ The Curse of La Llorona is based on the Mexican folk tale of the weeping woman, who, according to legend, drowned her children and now cries as she is looking for them, and if you would be so unlucky as to come into contact with her it would not end well for you. The film takes the perspective of Anna (played by Linda Cardellini), a widowed social worker and mother of two, who, while checking in on one of her cases, encounters someone whose life has been touched by the weeping woman. When her children start hearing the weeping woman’s cry, Anna and her family are haunted by a vengeful and confused spirit that will stop at nothing to get to Anna’s children.
The Conjuring-film series has had some memorable spirits. The memorable appearances from Annabelle the doll, in the first Conjuring-film, and the frightening nun, in the second Conjuring-film, led to spin-offs that bore the demons’ names. Say what you will about those spin-offs, but the demons were so memorable that audiences rushed to theaters to watch these evil spirits again. Even though the crooked man in The Conjuring 2 was so intriguing and horrifying that die-hard fans were basically begging for a film about him, that memorable spirit was not given a film of his own — at least not yet.
The weeping woman from The Curse of La Llorona was not previously introduced in a Conjuring-film, and this is thus the first spin-off not to revolve around a demon or ghost from a previous film in the connected universe. The people behind La Llorona didn’t have a previous film in the series to base their ghost off of and, sadly, it shows. I think the evil spirit-creature design of the weeping woman is uninspired.
The weeping woman uses the nun-approach to scares as a crutch, even though the weeping woman is nowhere near as scary. The evil spirit is designed as a wedding dress wearing ghost with the skin of a corpse, dark tears, inhuman yellow eyes, and then she basically just grabs your arm and screams like Imhotep from 1999’s The Mummy-film. It also doesn’t help that the film functions with an over-reliance on these telegraphed and unimaginative jump-scares of which you just become tired.
A predictable and tiring experience, this film suffers from many issues that I believe stem from the screenplay (written by Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis). For one, it is a predictable and generic horror film with some frustrating expository dialogue in the opening and some maddening character decisions and inconsistencies. The young characters, for no reason in particular, refuse to tell their mother about the source of their wrist-wounds, frightened children are more concerned with dolls than the safety of themselves and their family, Anna — whose husband was a police officer — for some reason never approaches the police department, even when a ghost-like bride is in her home.
When the mother hides her children in a closet, she stays and waits in another room almost as if she’s using her children as bait, moments after she has scolded a ‘curandero’ for using her family as bait. Perhaps the most frustrating moment, for me, was the moment during the third act when the film seemingly forgets that one of the characters had been possessed and left in an unresponsive state.
Though I feared that he had perhaps been miscast, Raymond Cruz, the aforementioned ‘curandero’ (and former priest), works really well with some much needed dry humor for this bland horror film. Also, Linda Cardellini, an underappreciated actress who deserves much better than this, does what she can with a less-than-satisfying role that only asks for a maternal figure and nothing else.
Considering the fact that La Llorona-filmmaker Michael Chaves has been hired to direct the third Conjuring-film, I now fear for the future of a film series I have enjoyed greatly in the past. Because the good now no longer outweighs the bad in the Conjuring-connected film universe thanks to this bland, uninspired, and jump-scare heavy spin-off film that should have stood on its own as it adds nothing new of value to the fan-favorite horror movie connected universe.
4 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.