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.

The movie begins with a nice kick, I will say that. It is Mexico, 1800 something and a woman, dressed in white is playing with her children in a sun-drenched valley. Blissfull and happy, the little kids are unaware of the fate that legend dictates. The woman earns her name as La Llarona (Marisol Ramirez) and we then flash forward to the 1970’s for a relatively modern, painfully predictable tale of those who, through ignorance, become the target of The Curse of La Llarona.

Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) is a single mom of two. A Widow to be exact. Between taking care of her two cherubic kids Chris (Roman Christou) and April (Madeleine McGraw), she works as an agent for Child Protective Services. It is on one of Anna’s more alarming case visits that she discovers Patricia (Patricia Velasquez) has locked her children away in a closet. Anna takes action to keep the two rescued boys safe by sending them to State board and care. Within days, the two children are found near the Los Angeles River, dead from drowning. Yes, there are lots of kid deaths and kids in peril because, well, La Llarona. Soon thereafter Anna and her children are shadowed by an ominous sense of dread followed by increasingly alarming moments. Could La Llorona be after her kids next?

A very long time coming, The Curse of La Llorona, ultimately fails to entertain much less scare. Not because of the risks it takes, but for the ones it doesn’t. Director Michael Chaves has a remarkable eye for the aesthetics of The Conjuring franchise and stays firmly on that well-worn path. While not officially part of The Conjuring universe, La Llorona has the crisp look and symmetrical framing that we have come to know from the blockbuster James Wan franchise. Yet something is off. The look is there, the performances are all remarkably solid, especially from the child actors, but the build-up moments become tediously mechanical.

Circling back on the performers I would also like to give props to Rafael (Raymond Cruz) for attempting to bring some levity to the proceedings. As a curandero that Anna looks to for help when Father Perez (Tony Amendola) proves useless, Cruz really does try to infuse energy and a slight bit of humor into battling a legendary ghost that is after kids. If he had just been given more material to really push the comic relief a bit more things would have become more watchable.

If I had to pinpoint the downfall of The Curse of La Llarona it would be the script by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis. With such a rich heritage and legendary monster to play with, we get cheap moments of fright, jump scares that you could set a watch to, and so-so resolution. Props where they are deserved, I actually quite liked the 1970’s setting, the storyline of a hapless CPS worker, and even the subplot of the mother, Patricia, at the beginning of the film. But this is horror. The look and the feel is there, the scares aren’t.

Would I see a second La Llorona movie? YES! I think that Chaves has a future ahead of him with a particular ability to pull great performances from the younger actors. He just needs the other ingredients to fall in line. The legend is phenomenal and I would love to see the idea of a child murdering ghost done right. As it stands the arrival of La Llorona to the film world has left me weeping.

The Curse of La Llarona
RATING: R
Runtime: 1 hr. 33 mins.
Directed By:
Michael Chaves
Written By:
Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
 
 
   

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About the Author

Norm(an) Gidney is a nearly lifelong horror fan. Beginning his love for the scare at the age of 5 by watching John Carpenter's Halloween, he set out on a quest to share his passion for all things spooky with the rest of the world.
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