The Curse of La Llorona
If you like horror films that offer no real scares other than quick shock effects and unconnected imagery, The Curse of La Llorona might just be your new favorite movie.
Taking place largely in Los Angeles in 1973, The Curse of La Llorona shows us what happens when a white lady ignores the pleadings of a Latina woman when it comes to protecting her children. Patricia (Patricia Velasquez) is acting strange enough to necessitate a wellness check from Child Protective Services. Her caseworker, Anna (Linda Cardellini), has known the family for some time and wants to help them be safe without too much intervention by the police. When Patricia starts behaving oddly, Anna must do what needs to be done to get the sons to safety. This means ignoring Patricia’s multiple locks on a closet door and screams to not open it. Anna needs to find the children, as it’s not only her job but also the humane thing to do. It doesn’t occur to her that doors don’t just keep things in; they also keep things out.
Sadly, soon after the children are released and Patricia is taken away, the boys are found drowned in the Los Angeles river. Might this be related to the prologue set in 1673 Mexico, where we see a veiled woman in white drowning her children in a river?
From here on out, The Curse of La Llorona offer few surprises in the way of plot points. Whatever was haunting Patricia is now after Anna and her two kids. She enlists the help of a priest (Tony Amendola, the lone tie-in to The Conjuring cinematic universe), who refers her to another priest (Raymond Cruz), who tells Anna of the legend of the weeping woman. Though this more recent retelling of Medea is the tale of a vindictive woman, the mythology barely factors into all the jump-scares and J-Horror tactics used to get the audience buzzing.
Although La Llorana (Marisol Ramirez) theoretically has some rules about when she can enter a building or how she’s unleashed on one victim after the next, the mythology of her character never seems relevant to the plot. I’m not talking about the documented legend of the actual La Llorana tales; I mean within the structural integrity of The Curse of La Llorona. Even with a priest there to help define her role, she’s never treated with the same definitions as other tall tales. Vampires have their garlic and sunlight, and werewolves silver bullets, but La Llorana gets nothing.
Then again, The Curse of La Llorona doesn’t take anything very seriously. Cruz is clearly the comic relief as he drops jokes left and right throughout his harrowing adventure with La Llorana. Between his constant quipping and the cheap jump-scares, it’s obvious that this is the kind of horror film that aims to get viewers riled up and leave their brains at the cinema door.
While I’m a fan of those fun but inconsequential kinds of horror flicks, here it feels a little exploitative of female trauma. From mother! to The Babadook and Hereditary, a recent slate of movies have been concerned with taking a hard look at maternal trauma and the repercussions of ignoring it. While the folktale within The Curse of La Llorona does deal with a woman who has been wronged, it’s not told from her perspective nor does it use that as anything but a reason for her to wreak vengeance and do the bidding of other wronged women.
It’s hard to be too harsh toward The Curse of La Llorona. The movie doesn’t try to be the next great horror film of the year. Still, it’s hollow at its core, void of mythology and social intention.