No, it’s not The Curse of La Llorona. And that interpretation of the La Llorona myth – adapted for The Conjuring Universe – didn’t set the world on fire either. But it’s one of the finest tricks of low-budget movie-making dating back to the ‘straight-to-video’ markets of the 90s. Take a popular movie, adjust the title ever so slightly, and slap on similar promotional art and wait for the less discerning viewers. Based on the same Mexican myth, B-movie knock-off The Legend of La Llorona kicks off the 2022 horror year alongside a handful of other new releases. Early reviews suggest you should keep your expectations low.
Following the death of their newborn daughter, the Candlewood family travel to a small Mexican hotel to heal. But Carly isn’t ready to move on and her relationships with both her husband, Andrew, and son, Danny, are strained. Not far from the hotel, a small canal passes by where legends of La Llorona, a long dead woman grieving over her lost children, haunt local residents. Soon the Candlewoods learn that there’s truth to the stories – but are they too late to save their son.
The Legend of La Llorona is a Low-Budget, Scare-Free “Thriller”
Compared to The Legend of La Llorona, The Curse of La Llorona is a genre-defining horror movie. Here’s an ultra-low budget horror movie that consistently overextends its reach. Director Patricia Harris Seeley could have gone any number of directions with the material. What she ultimately does is film Jose Prendes’ cliché-ridden screenplay with a very straight face. It’s a serious approach that overstays its welcome by a good 20 minutes or so. Across its excessive runtime, The Legend of La Llorona boasts shoddy CGI and make-up effects that wouldn’t have passed a smell test in the 1980s. An early scene with what looks like an actual wet blanket drowning Danny tells you everything you need to know about what’s coming next.
…Seeley insists on over-exposing her La Llorona …
Many of these problems could have been avoided by relying on suggestion and emphasizing atmosphere. But The Legend of La Llorona lacks anything remotely resembling mood. In addition, Seeley insists on over-exposing her La Llorona, which is odd considering how much the rest of the movie takes place in poor lighting. Yes, there’s one or two minor jumps. And bad movie lovers may chuckle at some of the final act’s unintentional humor. Yet a pointlessly stupid final reveal and lame sequel tease any goodwill generated by these few B-movie tidbits.
The Legend of La Llorona Doesn’t Just Children … She Steals The Life Out of the Entire Cast
Arguably, the scariest thing about The Legend of La Llorona are the bland characters and flat performances. None of the Candlewood family registers above the thinnest cardboard cutout idea of ‘all-American’. What Prendes’ screenplay gives us in place of actual characters are standard tropes of a ‘family in jeopardy’ that you’ll find in any number of horror movies. The dialogue is flat and there’s a lack of humor or anything that might add some life to the characters. Expect pearls of dialogue like, “It’s like Christmas decorations for the dead’. Even great actors would struggle to do something good with this material.
You know it’s bad when not even the usually fun Danny Trejo comes off badly.
And the actors here don’t bring to the table to elevate the material. Neither Autumn Reeser nor Antonio Cupo, playing the grieving Candlewoods, distinguish themselves. Though their performances aren’t bad per se, there’s not much that makes either one feel relatable or sympathetic. You know it’s bad when not even the usually fun Danny Trejo comes off badly. Like the rest of the cast, Trejo sleepwalks through The Legend of La Llorona. It’s a paycheck performance in a bad movie.
The Legend of La Llorona is a Soggy Start to 2022
As far as low-budget horror movies go, The Legend of La Llorona offers very little. A couple of tepid jump scares sparsely spread over 90 minutes or so can’t compensate for cheap CGI, disinterested performances, and recycled supernatural clichés. Maybe if Seeley had approached the material more tongue-in-cheek The Legend of La Llorona could have achieved ‘so bad, it’s good’ status. Instead, Seeley treats the material seriously and, as a result, the movie just a painfully awful retread.