And The Conjuring Universe marches on in 2019. Before the much hyped Annabelle Comes Home was released, Warner Brothers and producer James Wan snuck The Curse of La Llorona into theatres. Yes, La Llorona saw a wide theatrical release. But the studio was oddly ‘hush hush’ about the movie’s connection to The Conjuring franchise. Perhaps that had something to do with the movie’s quality. Critics certainly weren’t impressed. Regardless of the tepid critical response, La Llorona proved to be a modest box office success.
Three hundred years ago, an abandoned Mexican mother drowned her children in a jealous rage. As punishment for her crimes, otherworldly forces cursed ‘La Llorona’ to wander the earth as a demonic spirit in search of her children. In 1973, single mother and Child Protection Services worker, Anna Tate-Garcia, tragically removes two children from a mother’s custody. Enraged, the mother evokes the spirit of ‘La Llorona’, putting Anna’s children in grave danger.
The Curse of La Llorona All Jump Scares, No Atmosphere
With his feature directorial debut, Michael Chaves shows he knows his way around a scare. Unfortunately, Chaves relies too much on jump scares. Some of these scares are well-executed. An early scene with ‘La Llorona’ stalking children in a car boasts some creepy inventiveness. Later in the movie, a bathtub scene surprises even when you know what’s coming. Yes, Chaves throws in some other decent jumps. Too bad these scares adhere to the lazy principle of ‘loud equals scary’.
As for its connection to the larger Conjuring Universe, it’s pretty tenuous stuff that doesn’t add up to much more than name-dropping.
Where The Curse of La Llorona falls well short of the better movies in The Conjuring universe is its lack of atmosphere. While The Nun’s climax was an overstuffed mess, that movie at least teased a bit of Hammer Films’ gothic atmosphere. There’s nothing in the way of atmosphere – gothic or otherwise – in La Llorona. And almost no tension. In fact, The Curse of La Llorona suffers from poor pacing. Long stretches of nothing fill massive chunks of time in between scares. The movie just exceeds 90 minutes, but still overstays its welcome. Screenwriters Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis don’t help either. If La Llorona feels dull, it’s in part due to the movie’s recycling of familiar supernatural plot devices. As for its connection to the larger Conjuring universe, it’s pretty tenuous stuff that doesn’t add up to much more than name-dropping.
Decent Cast, Bland Characters
In terms of casting, The Curse of La Llorona assembled a good collection of familiar faces. As Anna Tate-Garcia, Linda Cardellini is perfect for the sympathetic ‘every woman’ role she’s tasked to play. To date, Cardellini has amassed an impressive collection of film (Scooby-Doo) and television credits (Mad Men, Bloodline). Capable character actors Raymond Cruz (Breaking Bad, Alien: Resurrection), Sean Patrick Thomas (Halloween Resurrection), and Patricia Velasquez (The Mummy) join Cardellini in key supporting roles.
Good actors can only do so much with roles that don’t amount to much more than stereotypes.
None of these actors delivers a poor performance. In particular, Velasquez impresses as a mother whose lost her children. Both Velasquez and Cardellini deliver as much emotional punch as the screenplay allows. Though Daughtry and Iaconis saddle him with worn horror tropes, Cruz injects some intensity into his role. In fact, Cruz manages some sly humour here and there. Even the child actors do just fine. In spite of the capable cast, La Llorona still feels flat. Much of this problem stems from the paper thin characters. Good actors can only do so much with roles that don’t amount to much more than stereotypes.
The Curse of La Llorona An Uninspired Franchise Entry
Maybe it’s for the best that The Curse of La Llorona had only a tenuous connection to The Conjuring Universe. Though it’s not quite as bad as Annabelle, La Llorona is a pretty uninspired franchise entry. Lacking atmosphere and leaning heavily on loud jump scares, producer James Wan and company waste the Mexican folklore source material. The end result is a middling horror movie cursed by long stretches of dullness.