James Wan has virtually become the leader in horror films over these past 15 years. Ushering in successful horror franchises like Saw, Insidious and of course, The Conjuring. The majority of the franchises however have basically focused exclusively on America stories and settings. There is a whole vast world out there past just our horrific stories, mythologies and folklore. For the first time, in The Conjuring Universe, we are exploring other cultures. For its first time into other cultures, The Conjuring Universe, is tackling the Mexican story of La Llorona.
The legend goes that in 16th century Mexico, there was a beautiful woman named Maria. She was a beautiful peasant woman who marries a wealthy man. The couple had two beautiful sons. The husband eventually divorces Maria for a much younger woman. In their first interaction, post divorce, the husband not only shuns his ex-wife - but she is broken by the reality of his much younger wife. This encounter eventually turns to rage for her as she ultimately drowns her sons. Upon realizing what she has done, she ends up weeping and ultimately committing suicide. Now, doomed to a fate that forces her to haunt our world and steal children. Sometimes even killing them in hopes of restoration for not only her own sins but resurrecting her own sons. There are multiple versions of the story but this is generally the most common.
The Curse of La Llorona tells the story of a mother of two turned widow, played by Linda Cardellini, whose family is haunted by the legendary La Llorona. While it is Cardellini who leads the cast, she is far from the shinning star. Instead that honor is bestowed upon Cardellini’s children – Roman Christou & Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen. When you have a story that revolves around children being haunted, can your film truly work with subpar child actors? Not likely. Luckily, Christou & Kinchen both turn some seriously impressive performances. Their chemistry as brother and sister only seals the deal even more.
Though, children aside, it’s Raymond Cruz who significantly steals the show. Cruz’s character is introduced roughly about half way through the film. He plays a priest turned shaman who specializes in exorcising demonic spirits in areas where the Catholic church won’t. Given the film’s subject matter of both child murder and child abduction – Llorona can be a heavy film to take at times. However, it’s Cruz’s Rafael which delivers some, if not all, of the film’s comedic moments. They are a much welcome change of pace when they do show up. The fearless nature of Rafael also makes for some of the best scenes against the cinematic antagonist of La Llorona.
In the legend, Maria is cursed and eventually takes up the mantle of La Llorona. Unfortunately, some of that curse carries into her first cinematic outing. While the character herself can be scary at times and has excellent costume design – thanks to Megan Spatz – it’s some of the film’s pacing that really carries the weight of the curse. The foundational first act takes its time in really building up the family and the story. Sincerely making La Llorona a menacing threat. Even in the film’s climatic ending, this slow building pace does the film justice. Though, it’s the transition between acts which makes the film feel sloppy. Almost the entirety of the second act feels like a tape got stuck in the tape deck on repeat. It’s almost the same series of events on loop.
Overall, The Curse of La Llorona, may indeed be a bit cursed. Lead actress, Linda Cardellini, turns in an average performance as a haunted mom and widow. Though its her offspring - Roman Christou & Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen – who boast better performances with brilliant chemistry and true terror. Children aside though, it’s Raymon Cruz who steals the show with his fearless charm and comedic timing. The film falls a bit short with its awkward pacing. The second act can feel like true hell at moments until you arrive till the end. The saddest part of La Llorona though is that it could be the most forgettable entry into The Conjuring Universe.
And more importantly, if you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, addiction, self-harm or depression - please free feel to reach out. Use any our resources, call the suicide lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or text 741-741.
Credits: The Curse of La Llorona is property of New Line Cinema. We do not own nor claim any rights