“The Curse of La Llorona” – ★ ★
La Llorona, according to Mexican legend, murdered her own children and now wanders the earth looking for them, snatching other unsuspecting tots and drowning them. It’s a pretty terrifying bedtime story popular in the Latino community, used to scare children into behaving.
Seems like decent enough fodder for a jumpy 93 minutes at the movies.
But the so-called “weeping woman” may have another reason to wail once her big North American debut, Warner Bros.’ “The Curse of La Llorona,” hits theaters. The movie, from director Michael Chaves and producer James Wan, who made “The Conjuring” so good that it inspired a whole “universe” of films, just isn’t that great. In fact, it makes La Llorona pretty ordinary — a demonic bride who terrorizes two single moms and their families in Los Angeles in the late 1970s by running at them screaming and crying oily black tears. Subtlety isn’t her thing.
The screenplay, credited to Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, is mainly about Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), a widowed child services worker and mom to Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). One of her cases, Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez), a mother of two, is being haunted by La Llorona. When Anna intervenes, suspecting that it was mom who burned marks into her sons’ arms, both boys end up dead, drowned in a shallow river.
So La Llorona turns her attentions to Anna’s kids, and things start to get quite scary in their big craftsman home, in part because although Anna, Chris and Samantha eventually encounter this very formal demon, none talk to each other about it. Even more frustrating: When Anna sees burn marks on her daughter’s arm, after very recently having seen the same marks on the now-dead Alavarez boys, she doesn’t pry further when Samantha says she merely fell.
The film feels both long and rushed which is something of an accomplishment as Chaves speeds through scenes and on to the next dutifully. Plotlines are abandoned at will, there are set ups for things that never come back and some suspiciously malleable “monster-logic” that makes the whole endeavor seem a little lazy.
It’s a shame because the film does have something to offer. A bucket of popcorn stands no chance against the many, many jump scares that are to come. “La Llorona” is at its best when Chaves is permitted to give scenes time to breathe.
The legend of La Llorona could inspire a whole universe of films on its own, but not with a kickoff like this.
• • •
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Patricia Velasquez
Directed by: Michael Chaves
Other: A Warner Bros. release. Rated R violence and terror. 93 minutes
- 'Girl Most Likely': movie review
- Movie reviews: ‘Broadway Idiot,’ ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’
- 'Noah': movie review
- 'Are You Here': Movie review
- 'The Fault in Our Stars': Movie review
- ‘Vehicle 19,’ movie review
- 'Bad Words,' movie review
- Movie review: ‘Krampus’ is a Christmas lump of coal that not even a Grinch could like
- Movie reviews: ‘If I Were You,’ ‘My Amityville Horror,’ ‘From Up on Poppy Hill,’ ‘K-11’
- ‘The Conjuring,’ movie review