‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Dead in the Water

by Christian Ramos on April 18, 2019

in Blogs,Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Rock Fist Way Down] 

Mexican folklore contains some of the scariest stories around. As a child growing up with a father who taught Spanish for a living, and being invested in my own Hispanic heritage, I have a good knack for these stories and why they are told to frighten others.

Dear old Hollywood however, in their attempt to make more money rarely invest the time or effort to do them right. To them, every Mexican folk tale has to be scary with no hints of why. Just scare the shit out of people and don’t provide a lot of context as to why others are scared. They have to draw audiences in with taglines like “the creepiest thing ever” or “it will scare you pants off.”

As the official sixth entry into The Conjuring cinematic universe, The Curse of La Llorona (directed by Michael Chaves)  takes a Mexican legend probably no gringo has ever heard of, and modernizes it so people get a basic (mis)understanding through the standard jump scares and cryptic shamen B.S. Not for one second did I find myself scared through the lame tactics this film offered and many times, my eyes were rolled in a fit of annoyance at how dull this movie could actually be.

The movie starts in a random year during the 1600s, showing a woman drowning her children. Flash-forward to the 1970s when Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), a social worker in Los Angeles, is sent to investigate a woman, Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez) who hasn’t been sending her children to school. It’s discovered Patricia has her children locked in a closet, but for what reason? When Anna has no choice but to remove the children from the home, Patricia freaks out and warns that her children are in danger.

Spoiler alert: they die after seeing an entity dressed in a wedding gown. When the bodies are discovered, Anna is warned again by Patricia of “La Llorona,” a spirit who drowned her children and in the afterlife, is set to find more children to replace her own. Hearing the weeping of La Llorona (“the crying woman” roughly translated) is sure to lead to some sort of doom. At this point, Anna’s children Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) are confronted by the spirit and marked (the curse) making them the next victims to be preferably drowned. Being the typical skeptic she is, Anna can’t understand what “La Llorona” even means or relates to her family, despite Anna seeing strange things happening all around her home. A priest gets involved because why not, and he sends her to a Curandero (shaman or healer) Rafael (Raymond Cruz) who despite really not serving any purpose to the plot of the movie, agrees to help Anna and her kids get rid of La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez) and the curse, saving them from being killed.

I hated this movie.

I don’t think there was any doubt I would have ever liked this movie beforehand just knowing and growing up with the legend of La Llorona. Is The Conjuring universe going to take every legend and relate it back to themselves and that damned evil doll of theirs? This didn’t have to open in the 1600s with no explanation as to why a random woman was drowning her children. It could have easily shown Patricia’s children getting killed as the opening scene and used flashbacks to tell La Llorona’s past, using it as the legend goes as to keep kids home after dark.

A lot of the issues I had with this was the writing. Using the phrase “My husband was the religious one, not me” is so overtly bad because everybody uses it. Of course the protagonist will have little to no religious ideologies because it forces her to believe in the paranormal, but the film doesn’t really do anything to change her ways of thinking, at least not out loud. The use of the curandero is used more as a way to get the family to see La Llorona rather than to help them. It also doesn’t help that Rafeal is such an awful character in both writing and acting, mostly using the family as bait. I got tired of him so fast.

Filmmakers like the use of a spiritualist, particularly Mexican ones (i.e. Paranormal Activity, which uses the same tactics as in this) because cleansing the house with an egg and the many religious artifacts are “spooky” to most audiences. This film series also has a really bad way to set up jump scares. The best horror films have them when you least expect them, or don’t. This movie silences everything so only the noise of the audience snickering occurs and then the scare happens, people scream and laugh and ultimately it happens about 20 more times.

The overall biggest drawback for myself is the representation of Hispanics onscreen. There’s not enough movies that have positive images of the culture, language, and ideologies of amazing people and when movies do happen, they’re independently released and not many see them or many are animated which isn’t always bad.

Maybe the biggest issue is to not cast non-Hispanic actors in lead roles like in this movie. Sure, the legend of the crying woman probably isn’t the best use of “positive images” but still this could have been something more in how it was written and presented to an audience that knows nothing about the story. Heck, even the trailer had to have a voiceover pronouncing the title.

Whatever the case, The Curse of La Llorona is a sad excuse for a horror movie. This universe it is set in is only going to get bigger, more jump scarier and less and less thought provoking or worth while, drowning itself in a pool of its own tears of redundancy.

Christian Ramos is a classic film fan, having had the dream to host Turner Classic Movies for years now. He also has a large amount of Oscar trivia in his head, remembers dressing as Groucho Marx one Halloween, and cherishes the moment Julianne Moore liked his tweet.


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