Horror is a genre that doesn’t always hit the right notes. It does have a more difficult mission than the regular blockbuster film, which is the burden of actually haunting its viewers. How long a film haunts you doesn’t matter as much as the reasons why the film haunted you. While some films may haunt their viewers for a long time through their horrifying imagery and context, a bunch of films (not necessarily horror) can haunt viewers about all the time they wasted watching them. Michael Chaves‘ feature-length directorial debut The Curse of La Llorona is a horror flick that belongs to the latter category.
From tropes as old as time, uninteresting characters, and nearly laughable sequences, to poor cinematography, unfitting music, and badly written dialogue, The Curse of La Llorona is bugged by almost all things that could go wrong in a horror film. The only thing going in favor of this The Conjuring franchise spin-off is the legend itself.
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The Movie Review
The film is based on a 17th-century Mexican folklore legend that people still believe in. If anything the way this film adapts it might make the tale a little less scary. The fact that the original tale itself does sound eerie makes The Curse of La Llorona an even bigger disappointment. It only works nicely in the context, but that alone doesn’t determine a movie’s quality.
It follows a 1673 Mexican family that travels to fields for playing. The mother is brought a necklace by her youngest son, which she chooses to keep as a souvenir. This scene would’ve been a fairly moving intro if not for the corny writing, which barely made it feel any important. A problem this displays with the film is that doesn’t connect scenes well, and the mediocre composition of a scene itself garners one’s attention instead. The supposed horror begins when the youngest son returns from a hike only to see his mother brutally drowning his brother.
He tries to escape the sight of his possessed mother but is caught and drowned to death. If The Curse of La Llorona was an actually good film, many viewers may have taken a break or stopped watching after this intro sequence alone, as it admittedly does sound absolutely terrifying and sad in context alone. But the way it’s brought to life is so unoriginal that the audience will neither be scared nor feel immense sadness.
The main story, which is set 300 years after, then begins. A Los Angeles caseworker Anna Tate-Garcia takes the case of the truancy of the superstitious Patricia Alvarez’s two sons. And as it goes with every other horror film, the case is much more than just truancy and things escalate negatively due to the carelessness of the protagonist herself. The budget-cosplay Weeping Woman strikes again and drowns the children to death.
The film then becomes more of a corny drama where blame games take place, as Patricia starts blaming Anna for the death of her sons and prays for her to suffer the same fate. And guess what, Anna too has two children too, and they’re the Weeping Woman’s new targets. The performances barely help the film, but one can’t blame them for a generally terrible script.
Up until now, we had concluded that the context alone seemed the only engaging aspect among all the terrible things going on, but halfway through the film, even the context of the story starts becoming low-key laughable. A story as such could’ve been an engaging dark comedy instead, as the script by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis was unintentionally funny enough for that.
The direction was full of every unoriginal horror trick that films continue to use today, to the extent that every attempted jump-scare becomes predictable. Michael Burgess’ cinematography doesn’t stand out at all either and would make you feel as if you’ve seen the film several times before due to how much it relies on conventionality. There’s barely any sense of Hitchcockian suspense and all attempts at suspense misfire because of the film not visually communicating with the viewers enough.
The Curse of La Llorona somehow manages to make the already worsening Conjuring franchise even staler. Barely any facet of the film makes it worth watching, be it writing, direction, cinematography, music, or even the scares. It’s the epitome of cheap and outdated horror tricks and tropes and is tarnished further by having one of the worst directions and scripts attributed to the genre in recent times.