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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Review: La Llorona

Director: Jayro Bustamante
Screenplay: Jayro Bustamante and Lisandro Sánchez
Year: 2020

Shudder continues with frim pace expanding its selection of international horror films. This time it is the Central American country of Guatemala that joins the list of exporters of horror movies with a movie based on a legend known and feared by many Hispanic cultures in Central and South America. The legend of La Llorona has not only traveled around the world, but its influence has also reached horror cinema. The most recent entry based on this legend, “The Curse of La Llorona”, didn’t make justice to the legend, and now “La Llorona” tries to achieve this task.

A dictator faces Guatemala’s justice after being accused of genocide against an indigenous group. Because of its socio-political importance, the juridical process captures the popular attention as well as affects the physical and emotional health of the accused, who starts showing signs of paranoia. The trial rules against him, but his contacts and political and economic influence manage to revert the court’s decision and lave him a free man, which causes outrage in the Guatemalan country.

Because of the constant protests, the dictator and his family are trapped inside his house, where most of the service people have fled in fear. In the midst of this commotion, Alma arrives to work in the house, a quiet and mysterious indigenous young woman. Since Alma arrives at the house, the dictator’s paranoia increases as he thinks that the strange things happening in the house are a consequence of Alma’s presence.

“La Llorona” not only looks to make justice to a famous Latin American legend but also tries to blend it with the political and social problems that lived in many of these countries. The script of Jayro Bustamante (“Tremors”), who also directs the movie, and Lisandro Sánchez is full from the beginning to the end of social contrasts and topics about justice and corruption. one of the most interesting scenes from the movie that showcases this topic is one in which a protest rages outside the luxurious mansion claiming for justice, while inside everything is in order and aesthetically pleasing, creating a physical and social barrier between both groups. 

Where “La Llorona can lose the attention of the viewer is in the plot development. Bustamante leans towards a slow-burn development where the ideas and tension are developed calmly, emphasizing the socio-political commentary and the aesthetics of his exquisite cinematography. The problem with this movie really lies in that most of its runtime is devoted to developing the conflict, which makes you expect and explosive ending. When this moment arrives, it feels underwhelming, and its outcome leaves an inconclusive and unsatisfactory feeling.

“La Llorona” is successful in giving a new version of the famous Latin American legend, adapting it to the socio-political reality that is lived in many countries. The plot has a slow-burn development and, although it always keeps an uneasy tone, it really neves delves too much into the horror realm. “La Llorona” is superior to the most recent horror movie that approaches the legend by creating an interesting plot and characters, but with a rather disappointing ending and rarely going to horror.

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