Directed by Michael Chaves
Starring Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez
The jolts come at a fairly regular pace in The Curse of La Llorona, an efficient scare machine that serves as the latest entry in The Conjuring universe of horror movies. This time, the horror reaches into Mexican folklore for inspiration, as a Los Angeles social worker named Anna (Green Book’s Linda Cardellini) investigates reports of child abuse in a Latino household led by a visibly unhinged mother (Patricia Velásquez). The mom insists that what appears to be abuse is actually protection from La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez), a spectral weeping woman whose hatred of her unfaithful husband causes her to murder her kids. It doesn’t take long for the supernatural goings-on to infect Anna’s own home, as she struggles to first accept the myth, then protect her own children (Roman Christou and Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen).
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The Curse of La Llorona is connected to the Conjuring movies by the slightest of threads: Father Perez (Tony Amendola), reprising his role in the Annabelle movies to tell Anna that—surprise!—evil exists, and to point her in the direction of Rafael Olvera (The Closer’s Raymond Cruz), a failed priest/shaman. Cruz is easily the best thing about the movie, imbuing his supernatural warrior character with such authority that even when he dips into deadpan humor, he loses none of his worn gravitas. That authority comes in handy, because it makes Anna (and the audience) believe that pulling up stakes and moving out of her creepy house—with its shadowy corners, billowing curtains, and phantom-housing backyard pool—is futile.
Chaves makes full use of his milieu, setting up the geography and atmosphere, basically doing things right. I just wish the movie had a bit more ambition to it beyond hitting its beats. There’s a reason why I started out the review with the word “jolts”; La Llorona doesn’t traffic so much in actual menace as jump scares, and when it does go for menace, it goes for the easy mark of child endangerment. None of the chills run a cold knife’s edge on the psyche, and it certainly doesn’t make the effort to make its villain interesting in the way that the two Conjuring movies did. As stated earlier, The Curse of La Llorona is an efficient scare machine, the kind you can switch off once you leave the cineplex.