I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow I had not realized that “The Curse of La Llorona” was considered a part of the Conjuring universe? Clearly someone wasn’t paying attention. And it’s funny because I’m generally a fan of the tethered horror franchise specifically the two proper “Conjuring” films. The side movies have been inconsistent but still entertaining.
“The Curse of La Llorona” was the sixth installment in the ever-expanding Warner Bros. horror-verse (there has been a seventh film since). It also marks the feature film directorial debut for Michael Chaves who is also directing next year’s “The Conjuring 3”. The film is based on the actual Mexican folktale of The Weeping Woman. According to the legend a mother drowned her two children and then herself in a jealous rage after her husband left her for a younger woman. As a result she is cursed and her spirit roams the earth looking for children to replace hers.
Following a brief introduction to the legend, the movie sits down in 1973 Los Angeles. The often underrated Linda Cardellini plays Anna, a widowed mother of two and a child services case worker. She’s asked to do a welfare check after the children of a client (Patricia Velasquez) are reported missing. Once there, Anna finds the two kids locked in a closet and their distraught mother who claims she is protecting them from La Llorona.
I won’t spoil how it happens but La Llorona switches her sights to Anna’s children (played by Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen). The rest of the film features Anna getting a grasp of the terror they’re facing and protecting her kids from the violent apparition decked out in billowing white lace and with a ghoulish ashy face that could have been copied and pasted straight from “The Nun”.
“La Llorona” is frustrating mainly because it starts out pretty strong. It puts its pieces in place through a nifty setup with real horror potential. But then it does what the weaker of the Conjuring spin-offs do – leans way too heavily on obvious horror movie conventions. You know, jump scares, squeaky doors, wide-eyed people slow-walking through a dark house at night (just turn the lights on people).
There is a brief but neat appearance by a someone who links this film to another from the franchise. But we also get a character who feels off from the first moment we meet him. Raymond Cruz plays this excommunicated priest turned shaman who Anna seeks out for help. The character has the personality of a plank of wood and his dry, monotone dialogue doesn’t help. He adds to the overall generic feel of the film’s second half. And again, what a shame. “La Llorona” gets off on the right foot and Cardellini does what she can. But it’s yet another Conjuring installment built on a promising idea but with execution that feels all too familiar.
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS