Horror film “The Conjuring”, released in 2013, offered a glimmer of hope for the genre in dire need of rehabilitation. James Wan curated that true story based on the Warren’s special abilities and highly documented cases, from facts and events combined with the dedicated performances from Oscar nominees Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor and Patrick Wilson. While the horror genre found other directions for reinvention and originality in the passing six years, Warner Brothers continues bleeding the well dry where ‘The Conjuring Universe’ in concerned. Looking back all the “Annabelle” spin offs, “Nun” prequels, and now “Llorona”, make it difficult to remember why we enjoyed “The Conjuring” so much in the first place. “The Curse of La Llorona” is one of, if not the worst entry in the tired franchise, filled with jump scares and little else. Even worse, director Michael Chaves is also behind “The Conjuring 3”, due out later this year.
Mexican folklore tells of a weeping woman, La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez), who drowned her children in 1673. Passed down for generations as a boogieman story, in 1973 the ghostly figure materializes and comes for Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez) and her children. Don’t open the door, she pleads with Los Angeles case worker Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini). Alvarez’s children are found safe and the mother taken into custody for abuse and neglect. Disturbed by the case and the unexplainable circumstances, strange things begin to happen in Anna’s house around her own children. She too begins seeing a frightening woman in a white wedding dress, strange marks begin appearing on her children’s wrists just like the Alvarez’s. Anna must seek the council of the church and ex-priest Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz) who has experience in dealing with the curse of La Llorona.
Exploring the legend of La Llorona would have been a good place to start, as some version of the folktale was part of many children’s upbringing. Instead, this script only shows us what the future ghostly figure did, never explaining the circumstances that drove her to drown her children. It fast forwards 200 years to the film’s present day so we can get right into a family running around a big house, terrified of it’s new occupant. There is a checklist of elements ‘Llorona’ is eager to hit whether they work in the overall story or not. The majority of the short running time follows Cardellini (“Green Book”), doing some unimpressive slow maneuvering through her house. Bad horror movie stereotypes dictate that characters must move at a snail’s pace while trying to find where the strange noises are originating from and never turn on any lights until you are sure everyone is safe.
The way these weak and pathetic characters are written, they never discuss what’s happening or face their fears, instead just stare blankly at one another. That’s what made “The Conjuring” (at least the first one) more interesting, telling the story from the point of view of Lorraine Warren who was calm, in charge and seemingly had answers. Here, Anna watches her daughter drowning in a pool, screams the daughters name, then jumps in the pool. You can anticipate every scare this movie has to offer because it’s routine and predictable. If your idea of a horror movie is simple jump scares, where everything is silent and then a screaming figure pops out, this movie might satisfy. If recent elevated horror entries like “Hereditary”, “Get Out” or “The Wind” have elevated your expectations and there is no turning back, Llorona will play more like a cheap knock-off that any 15-year-old with an iPhone could have shot.
Final Thought – ‘Llorona’ is an uninspired, lethargic horror movie, with a mindless script and paltry performances.