Studio horror has gotten a bad rep recently, mostly due to the constant release of uninspired and predictable films in the genre. The Curse of La Llorona, the latest entry into the Conjuring universe, sadly falls into this classification. It is a thoroughly generic jump-scare fest that fails to add anything to the greater horror landscape.
Michael Chaves makes his feature film debut with this film, and his inexperience shows. La Llorona is not a terribly directed film, but the way this story is told is so flat and lifeless that it basically undermines the whole affair. The scares are predictable, with only a few presented with any imagination or style (the early alleyway scene with the titular ghost did get under my skin). The film just feels overwhelmingly familiar, and it fails to capture attention in any meaningful way. With Chaves at the helm of The Conjuring 3, his work on La Llorona doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
All of the blame cannot be left at Chaves’ feet, however; very few can out-direct a bad script. The Curse of La Llorona follows Anna (Linda Cardellini), a widowed social worker, who takes a case involving children that are murdered by La Llorona. Once she is cursed by the children’s mother to face the wrath of La Llorona, she fears for her own children and attempts to break free of the evil spirit. What follows is very traditional horror plot beats, all the way up to them turning to a priest questioning his own faith to try and save them. The story fails to capitalize on its Hispanic roots and barely makes any sense under close consideration. It’s a mess, and one you’ve seen before.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Now there is some decent work done in the acting department though. While the characters are all very cookie-cutter, Cardellini gives her best effort to give the film some heart and soul, and I found her to be successful. The child actors playing her kids, Roman Christou (Chris) and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen (Samantha), also do well in some very uninspired roles. If this family wasn’t believable or likeable, this film would almost certainly be a complete disaster. Elsewhere, Raymond Cruz does fine work as a former priest, while Tony Amendola is serviceable as Father Perez, who was in the film Annabelle and serves as this film’s very flimsy connection to the Conjuring universe. The cast tries their best to sell the very bland source material, and for the most part they make it happen.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score here is completely unremarkable, in that I couldn’t tell you any point where it added anything of substance to the movie. Like many others of the film’s elements, it is very, very generic. As for the sound design? I hope you like the sounds of soft weeping and jarringly loud screaming.
This aspect was pretty baffling to me. In every instance where La Llorona showed up, after the initial shock wore off, I was taken aback by how sloppy her CGI was. It is distractingly bad, and by the film’s end, Llorona’s appearances bordered on comedy. Her design is appropriately creepy, but nothing groundbreaking or memorable. This could have been a spot for this movie to shine, but it fails pretty thoroughly.
I really, really love horror when it’s done well and has something new to say. The Curse of La Llorona sadly tries to ride the goodwill many viewers have towards James Wan’s masterful The Conjuring, and it does nothing but disappoint at every turn. If you like jump scares and mindless stories, you may find something to like here. Otherwise, let this one drown.