the curse of la llorona
Review by alison traynor
Once again, the absurdly prolific The Conjuring Universe franchise is releasing a new film, this time in the shape of Michael Chaves’ The Curse of La Llorona. Over its six year lifespan, the franchise has brought copious amounts of nefarious spirits, demonically possessed dolls, and horrifying poltergeists to audiences all over the world. However, despite a penchant for invoking the supernatural on screen, The Conjuring Universe has never quite managed to conjure up anything that even vaguely resembles a good film, and unfortunately The Curse of La Llorona is no exception.
The most frustrating thing about The Curse of La Llorona is that it has plenty of potential, yet this potential is consistently squandered. If themes such as the relationship between religion and science and the context of the Mexican folklore from which the legend of La Llorona originates were explored in a more nuanced way, the film could be significantly more engaging. Instead, these themes tantalisingly materialise for brief moments, and are almost immediately obscured behind a fog of clichés, plot holes and frivolous jump scares.
To give credit where it’s due, the jump scares employed at the beginning of the film are very effective, and I found my heart racing with fright at several points while watching it. However, it is unfortunate that Chaves solely utilises jump scares to induce fear in the audience, and employs them so frequently that their impact rapidly diminishes as the film progresses. The plot is centred around a spirit known as La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez), a woman who drowned her children in a fit of jealous rage because of her husband’s infidelity, and now seeks out other children to abduct and murder. While fleeting glimpses of the ghostly figure are certainly unsettling, once her veil is lifted to reveal a face plastered in cosmetics that would not look out of place at a Marilyn Manson concert, the effect becomes almost comical. This marks a lack of directorial restraint which proves to be an issue throughout the film.
Clichés are a defining feature of The Curse of La Llorona, which renders it to be a wholly unoriginal piece of cinema. Anna Garcia (Freaks and Geeks’ Linda Cardellini) and her two children, who are tormented by La Llorona, live in a large and eerie house. For some tonally convenient reason, they never remember to turn on the lights. Rocking chairs move of their own volition, and doors creak constantly. Furthermore, there is usually a storm raging outside of the windows.
If you get the impression that you have seen this film before, it is because you inevitably have, albeit under various different names. Overall, The Curse of La Llorona is a banal and predictable film that will provide little other than mild amusement for horror cinema aficionados and casual viewers alike.
The Curse of La Llorona is now showing in cinemas nationwide.