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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review: The Curse of La Llorona

Director: Michael Chaves
Screenplay: Mikki Daughtry y Tobias Iaconis
Year: 2019

Synopsis: Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids are soon drawn into a frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope to survive La Llorona’s deadly wrath may be a disillusioned priest and the mysticism he practices to keep evil at bay, on the fringes where fear and faith collide.

“The Curse of La Llorona” is based on a legend principally Mexican, but that has transcended to many parts of Latin America. This legend says that a woman of indigenous descendancy fell in love with a Spanish man and had kids with him. He, sometime after having their kids, decided to leave her and marry a high society Spaniard woman. Blinded by rage, the indigenous woman killed her three kids by drowning them in a river, and not being able to cope with the guilt of what she had done, she took her own life. The legend tells that her ghost continued to roam the streets of Mexico City grieving her kids' death.

“The Curse of La Llorona” starts with a scene where other movies will be intimidated. When the antagonist of your story is a ghost that haunts and possibly kills children, you must be prepared for uncomfortable scenes and moments where they are the victims. The novice director Michael Chaves starts by letting this clear and I liked this bold move. Unfortunately, the rest of this movie did not reach the level of what was expected of it after the strong promotion.

The director Michael Chaves had his first test in horror cinema before his work in the awaited third entry in the “The Conjuring” saga. For many fans of the horror genre, what Chaves would be able to do in this movie will reflect what could be expected in “The Conjuring 3”. Chaves does not have an easy task, as he must continue the legacy of non-other than James Wan, creator of the “Saw” and “Insidious” sagas. Although his work in this movie is shadowed by an awful script, it shows that Chaves is a competent director, with clear influences from Wan and other great horror movie director and with plenty of creativity. Even when a lot of horror movie clichés are used in this movie, such as using silence to create tension before a jump scare, it also has creative and terrifying scenes. With a competent script, I think he can do a good job in “The Conjuring 3” and who knows if in another work in the “The Conjuring” universe.

While writing the screenplay for this movie, it gives the sense that screenwriters Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (“Five Feet Appart”) heard the legend of La Llorona and came up with endless jump scare ideas that they later tried to tie together with a story. I say this because the movie leans too much on jump scares, which they do rather well, but everything that happens between them feels forced and uninspired. The dialogs are basic and sometimes even dumb and the characters usually take decisions in favor of being able to plug a jump scare, rather than by making the story more coherent or believable.

Given that the legend that gives way to the story is one of Mexican origin and that the movie starts with music in Spanish, I thought that the cultural part would be more important. Besides some lines in Spanish and some Latino last names, there is not a clear cultural identity. From my perspective, I think that this movie could have used more elements from Mexican culture to look into the folklore of this culture instead of being a simple story and too generic in the cultural part, maybe trying to be more relevant for the Latino community in general.

“The Curse of La Llorona” is nothing more than another generic horror movie that bets to have success based on jump scares and with its association to the “The Conjuring” franchise. While the movie has good and original moments, its story is too basic, and the decisions of the characters usually do not make sense. Although the design of La Llorona is not bad, it is not a character with the potential to live on in horror cinema.

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