The Curse of La Llorona is a boring film about a scary legend.
The legend of La Llorona is a well-known one in Mexico and the southwestern half of the United States. It’s a story that I was told by both my mom and my aunts and, as a result, I never went off with a stranger while I was growing up. Of course, I also had some pretty intense nightmares but that’s kind of the point. If someone tells you the story of La Llorona and you don’t end up having a nightmare about being drowned by a weeping woman, they didn’t tell the story correctly.
La Llorona was originally named Maria. She lived, in a rural village, with her family and she was famous for both her beauty and her virtue. When a wealthy nobleman saw her and immediately proposed to her, Maria accepted. However, the nobleman’s father was upset that his son was marrying into a poor family and he refused to accept Maria as his daughter-in-law. Maria and her husband ended up having two sons and living in a house by the river. Maria’s husband doted on their sons but he ignored her and eventually, Maria learned that he was having an affair.
In a fit of blind rage, Maria drowned her children in the river. After realizing what she had done, Maria died of grief. However, when she arrived at the gates of Heaven, she was asked why her children were not with her. When Maria explained that she had lost them, she was told that she would not be allowed to enter Heaven until she found them. Now, known as La Llorona (or “the weeping woman”), she wanders the Earth, crying and looking for her children.
Where does one find La Llorona? It depends on who is telling the story. Some stories say that you’ll only see her near a body of water. My mom used to tell me that La Llorona could be anywhere, including under my bed or in the bedroom closet. Regardless of where you might find her, La Llorona is always wearing her wedding dress and she’s always sobbing. Approach her and she’ll grab you and either kidnap you or drown you, all the while begging for forgiveness. Many have seen La Llorona but few have survived to tell the story.
“And that is why we do not talk to strangers,” my mother would say while I looked out the bedroom window, searching for the sight of La Llorona walking through the Texas night….
Unfortunately, The Curse of La Llorona never comes close to being as scary as the stories that I used to hear when I was growing up. Instead, the film is a standard Conjuring-Insidious-Paranormal Activity type of film, with La Llorona continually popping up out of the shadows to frighten a social worker and widow named Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), and her two children. The film has a few jump scenes but it never creates enough atmosphere to be consistently scary and, even worse, it reduces La Llorona to just being a typically malevolent spirit in a wedding dress. In the end, the film itself doesn’t seem to really understand what La Llorona wants nor does it have a clear idea of what she can or cannot do. As such, the whole movie has a slapdash feel to it that makes it difficult to really maintain any suspense.
Technically, The Curse of La Llorona is a part of the Conjuring Universe. Not only does the film take place in the 70s (which was apparently the decade when all the ghosts and spirits went crazy) but there’s also very brief flashback featuring that ugly Annabelle doll. However, neither Patrick Wilson nor Vera Farmiga puts in an appearance, which is a shame because The Conjuring films really only work because of their chemistry. Instead, Raymond Cruz shows up as an exorcist named Rafael. Cruz gives a likable performance but, again, one gets the feeling that the film wasn’t sure what exactly it wanted to do with him.
Anyway, The Curse of La Llorona is a disappointment. Fortunately, there’s a lot of good and genuinely frightening Mexican horror films about La Llorona. I recommend checking out 2006’s Kilometer 31.