THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019)
Starring Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Roman Christou, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tony Amendola, DeLaRosa Rivera, Madeleine McGraw, Sierra Heuermann, Sophia Santi, Oliver Alexander, Jethan Camarena, Irene Keng, John Marshall Jones and Paul Rodriguez.
Screenplay by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis.
Directed by Michael Chaves.
Distributed by New Line Cinema. 93 minutes. Rated R.
The haunted universe of The Conjuring continues spreading like the branches of the spooky tree that played such an important part in the original movie. These films are loosely based on the real-life cases of respected paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. (Other than the Conjuring stories, they also explored the hauntings that became known as The Amityville Horror.)
Since the 2013 release and surprise success of the original film, this series is spreading like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with multiple series and stand-alone stories intertwining to make one big ghost-filled extravaganza. There are currently two The Conjuring films (with a third coming next year). Spinoffs include two Annabelle films (with a third out later this year), The Nun (with a second nun movie in the works, too), this film and the upcoming The Crooked Man.
That’s six movies in six years, with at least four more in the pipeline. The films often share characters – for example, Annabelle the doll originally appeared in the first film, and The Nun popped up briefly in The Conjuring 2 and a priest in this new film named Father Perez (Tony Amendola) had previously been in Annabelle. In fact, the haunted doll even has a brief cameo here in a flashback with the good Father.
Otherwise, though, The Curse of La Llorona is mostly a stand-alone story. It revolves around the Mexican folk tale of an evil spirit (la Llorona means “the weeping woman”) who had drowned her children in a fit of jealousy, and now her spirit remains near bodies of water, crying and seeking new children to replace her own.
Honestly, it’s a little hard not to notice how similar The Curse of La Llorona is to the first Conjuring movie – a 1970s mother who is trying desperately to save her children from an evil female spirit in a white dress who is trying to kill the kids. La Llorona adds a little Mexican spice to the situation (and this south of the border flavor was already touched on in The Nun), but otherwise it is extremely similar to the original.
So, yes, this series has a basic formula. But you know what? It is still a fairly effective formula. I’m not sure I can say The Curse of La Llorona is a good film – it’s all rather predictable and it relies too much on sudden jump scares – but it is still a pretty darned creepy film. At least until the climax, where, as always, the story goes a bit too far into SFX freak-out mode.
At least La Llorona does not feel like as much of a misfire as The Nun did, though honestly only the first Conjuring movie felt fresh and innovative in this entire series. The rest are retreads, but they are fun in the same way that carnival house of horrors are fun – sitting in the dark and having things jump out at you willy-nilly.
As normal in these films, the lead actors are probably a bit too good for this claptrap. In a series that has relied on strong turns by respected character actors like Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Demian Bechir and Taissa Farmiga, this film also overreaches in casting.
Linda Cardellini (Brokeback Mountain, Freaks and Geeks, Green Book) plays the panicky mom, a social worker who mistakenly releases the spirit by rescuing the two sons of one of her cases from a locked closet. Raymond Cruz – best known for long running roles as a detective on The Closer and its spinoff Major Cases, as well as a recurring role as a drug lord on Breaking Bad and its spinoff Better Call Saul – has fun as a curandero brought in to burn incense and try to send the spirit back where it came from.
If you’ve seen any of the Conjuring movies, you pretty much know what you’re in for. Like I said, The Curse of La Llonora is far from being the best of the series (that would be the first movie), but it’s far from the worst as well (we’re looking at you, The Nun). Sometimes you’re in the mood to just sit in the dark and scream at things that go bump in the night. If so, time in the company of La Llorona will be time well spent. If you’re looking for a little more “story” in your ghost story, then maybe the next film from this extended universe will connect.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2019 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 19, 2019.