Worth watching, but it’s not going to leave you sleeping with the lights on.
Right from the beginning The Curse of La Llorona does not play around. The latest in the Conjuring universe opens on the origin of the titular La Llorona from Mexican folklore; luring her own children into the woods and drowning them. It’s quite horrible, and really sets a tone that nobody is safe, not even children. It’s a bold place to start for a mainstream horror movie, but for the rest of the runtime nothing else really lives up to it. There aren’t any surprises to the film, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth watching. The jump scares are so steady that you could set your watch by them, but there are also a few scenes that deliver some very genuine scares and build up naturally. One visual that was delightfully creepy was an image of La Llorona viewed through a transparent children’s umbrella. Although with the amount of times she screams at the camera the name Weeping Woman feels like an understatement. The constant raining, continuing the aquatic theme, makes for an appropriately dreary mood that reminds a little of Scott Derrickson’s underrated Deliver Us from Evil.
Broadly, The Curse of La Llorona falls into a subcategory of Maternal Horror; movies that are focused around a woman trying to protect her children from some sort of, usually supernatural, threat that torments them. The Ring, Dark Water, The Babadook, The Orphanage, The Others, Hereditary, and Mama are all examples of this. This is not to be confused with Pregnancy Horror, which is its own thing. Linda Cardellini is Anna, our mother on the edge even before her children Chris and Sam are being haunted by the Weeping Woman. A social worker who gets involved with a family whose mother Patricia locked the two boys in a cupboard, claiming to be protecting them from something (no prizes for guessing what), Cardellini is a solid grounding presence for the chaos unfolding around her. The kids are fine, sweet and stupid decisions in equal measure, but they serve the purpose. Raymond Cruz is the most interesting and entertaining edition to the film as a former priest turned faith healer who has turned his back on the church but uses his unorthodox methods to help the family. He’s a nice change of pace from the usual priest having a crisis of faith.
There is an attempt to pad out the film that doesn’t entirely work by introducing the idea that La Llorona’s haunting has the effect of Anna being suspected of abusing her children, just like Patricia at the beginning of the movie which sets the story in motion, but it is only referred to in one scene and then never really goes anywhere. Speaking of not really going anywhere, Father Perez, who previously showed up in the first Annabelle movie, appears here, presumably to remind us that the two films exist in the same universe, but he ends up managing to be less useful here than he was there.
Ultimately, The Curse of La Llorona succeeds in what it sets out to do admirably as another entry in the biggest mainstream horror franchises of the decade. It’s the equivalent of a decent mid-priced restaurant; nothing that will blow you away but well done. It’s not as bad as the first Annabelle movie, or disjointed as last year’s The Nun. It’s a chiller that will entertain and be a good watch with a packed crowd to get the most out of those jump scares. Sooner or later we are going to need more nourishment than just the usual diet of jump scares, though.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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