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‘The Curse of La Llorna’ review: Manages Scares Through Lackluster Storytelling

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I first discovered the La Llorna folklore on an episode in the second season of Grimm by the same name. In the episode Nick and Hank were searching for someone abducting children who the locals referred to as The Weeping Woman. The episode ends on a happy note thankfully. The three children are reunited with their parents and all is well once more. This is an episode I still tell people about even now. This episode made my expectations for The Curse of La Llorna high going into the theater. I wanted this to be one of the best horror films in a long time, but the storytelling causes the film to fall short. Despite this, the lore lends itself well to a great crime drama mixed in with some thrills and chills. Although the film falls flat in some places, the feature is one I’m glad I saw in theaters as the folklore lends itself well to the big screen.

La Llorna is descendant from Mexican folklore and surrounds the supernatural realm of existence. In this case, when social worker Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) ignores the pleas of the mother in one of her case’s, Patricia Alvarez (Patrica Velasquez), Anna finds herself in a world that she never could have imagined for herself or her children. Although at first she does not understand what is going on, through assistance from Father Perez (Tony Amendola) and Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz), Anna pieces together the folklore of the woman named La Llorna (Marisol Ramirez). As she learns more, she becomes determined to fight to save her children and regain her sanity that others around her feel she has loss.

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While I knew James Wan produced the film, I did not realize that the feature takes place within The Conjuring universe until Thursday evening. This was a small detail I missed somehow. As Father Perez went onto explain to Anna that he believes anything after an encounter with a certain doll, Annabelle, I put it together. In a way I wish they had drawn upon Perez more to anchor this film further into the universe. Instead of the brief mentioning and appearance of the character the film could have expanded upon him. I wish that Perez assisted Rafael but stayed with the church while fighting for Anna and her children. Although I’m not sure if that would have taken away time from Cruz’s character which feels unacceptable. I quickly to love his character in the feature once the film established him as more than a mere foreshadow.

Despite the film barely edging over an hour and thirty minutes, the storytelling falls flat in places. In many ways, I think the feature could have examined the lore more. They could have explored moments with the character throughout history in the beginning of the film to make viewers under that La Llorna was a true danger. They should have spent more time on the legend itself rather than have someone else explain the legend to Anna. Something a bit more in depth would have helped the film keep from struggling in the areas it loses audiences. I they also could have expanded on the lore and have La Llorna take over Patricia ultimately by the end of the film, forever keeping the curse alive. The idea that evil never dies is nothing new but this could have lent a much needed hand to the horror film and honestly a franchise since that appears to be the ultimate goals these days within the horror universe.

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Oddly enough, despite what was lacking in the feature, we still care about these characters. I would love to have more background information on Cruz’s character. Yes, we learn bits and pieces from him, but in a way the character could have a franchise to destroy other legends. I want to see more Rafael Olvera in my life! While he is a man of few words in the feature, he says enough to keep viewers captivated alongside Cardellini. He also provides comedic relief when needed. The performances of the children within the feature often made me want to look over my shoulder to make sure that La Llorna did not enter the theater somehow. Velasquez steals the show in various scenes throughout the film, especially an eerie one where her and Cardellini talk one another by themselves. Ramirez manages to portray La Llorna in spectacularly creepy yet understated ways that left me not wanting to look into mirrors while in the dark. Mirrors are creepy enough, I did not need this further additive in my life.

Another aspect of the film I enjoyed was the cinematography. The opening sequence is one of my favorites I’ve seen in a horror film in quite some time. The tracking shot used follows the youngest sibling gives audiences a look at almost he entire house and the home life of the Anna and her children. No cuts required. Tracking shots are always magical in this regard, but other breathtaking shots are mixed into the feature with the ones meant to terrify us. The blending provides a harrowing atmosphere allowing the film not merely rely on jump scares, but the tension created from the shots instead.  Audiences are also pushed into the point of view of various characters which makes for a particularly eerie effect throughout the feature.

New Line Cinema

Ultimately I think the biggest downfall of The Curse of La Llorna is that the trailer gave way too much of the movie away.  Some of the scariest parts of the feature are ruined because of the various trailers.  Its essential in a horror film that at some point I feel fear.  In many moments I thought, “This is the part in the trailer when….“. This is never a good sign for a film’s success.  The lore is certainly a rich subject, but the film falls short executing the legend the way the folklore deserves.  While the film is certainly not the worst in The Conjuring universe, this one will most likely become lost in the horror world although it does deserve a chance. Though if I’m entirely honest, the film deserves a chance on a discount day.

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