Written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, and directed by Michael Chaves, Curse de La Llorona is a horror film based on the Mexican legendary ghost of La Llorona — a woman who drowned her children and now cries while looking for them in the river, and goes after others who cross her path. (FEA 2.5/5).
In 1973 Los Angeles, a social worker named “Anna Tate-Garcia” (Linda Cardellini) is assigned a difficult case concerning a woman named “Patricia Alvarez” (Patricia Velásquez) and her children. Upon her arrival at Patricia’s house for a check-up, Anna finds Patricia’s two sons locked inside a room, claiming to be hiding from “her.” Anna assumes that the children are talking about Patricia, but both the children and the mother seem terrified of someone (or something) else. Regardless, Patricia is arrested and her children are taken to a shelter, where they are promised safety. The same night, they are found dead, drowned in a river. At the murder scene, Patricia arrives and accuses Anna of making her children vulnerable to “her”— her being “La Llorona.” A widowed mother herself, Anna brings her children with her to the crime scene, but tells them to stay in the car. Her son, “Chris” (Roman Christou), defies her orders and leaves his sister, Sam, behind. He hears crying and finds La Llorona, who attempts to kidnap and murder him, but he manages to get back to the car. This marks the moment that La Llorona starts to target Anna’s children, with the goal of drowning them just like she drowned Patricia’s children. Will Anna and her children be harmed by La Llorona, or will they escape the terrible fate suffered by all others who encounter her?
While the plot of the film may seem interesting, it is not executed well. There are obvious plot holes: the version of the La Llorona tale shown in the film takes place in Mexico in 1673. What brings La Llorona to Los Angeles? This makes no sense. Why did La Llorona haunt Patricia and her children? Is there something about Patricia that brought La Llorona to haunt her? None of these plot points are explained. Instead, we are simply given the following: La Llorona, originally found in Mexico, somehow haunts Patricia and her children in Los Angeles, and later moves on to haunt Anna and her children, who happen to be at the crime scene.
The film also relies too much on jump scares, which are extremely generic and do not work to mask the poor CGI used to create La Llorona. The jump scares started no more than 15-20 mins into the film, and became less and less shocking. Furthermore, if one looks beyond the jump scare, the graphics used to create La Llorona lack in quality, making the shot even less effective at scaring the audience.
The film’s dialogue is too on-the-nose and cliché at times. For example, when Anna starts to seek out an explanation for the burns on her children’s hands and the appearance of La Llorona, a typical character archetype—a priest—tells her the story in very generic and obviously fake Spanish-accented English. The characters also often voice everything they do or think, which violates the “show don’t tell” principle that makes films more captivating. The dialogue and the acting are reminiscent of the kind found in a mediocre horror film from the early 2000s (e.g. House of Wax), and, even if it premiered then, it would not have been extraordinary.
The film relies on a commercialization of a Mexican folk tale, which I find rather unnecessary. The legend of La Llorona does not need special effects, superpowers, or other add-ons to make it “scary” or “Hollywood-appropriate.” Instead, untouched, it could be the plot to a more minimalist thriller, which I think would be way scarier than a generic Hollywood jump scare film.
The movie is also extremely tone-deaf when it comes to its subject matter. Is making a film about Mexican children being kidnapped the best idea in the midst of a serious and problematic border crisis marked by the separation of children from their parents?
To be quite honest, I am finding it very hard to find positive aspects in this film. In essence, if you want to pass time and feel like going to the movie theater and cannot find anything else to watch, then Curse de La Llorona is not the worst option. However, I would not go into the theater with high expectations. Instead, prepare to cringe, laugh, and (sometimes) be scared.
Top Photo: Linda Cardellini in Curse de La Llorona.
Middle Photo: Marisol Ramirez as La Llorona.
Bottom Photo: Patricia Velasquez in Curse de la Llorona.
Photo Credits: Warner Bros. (2019) (USA) (theatrical).
Q: Does Curse de La Llorona pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?