Courtesy of New Line Cinema
In today’s world, horror movies are accounting for big bucks at the box office - Jordan’s Peele “Us” has already grossed north of $250 million worldwide, and the rebooted “Halloween” opened to monstrous numbers back in October. If you’re in the business of spooking people, business is good. Part of their attractiveness is their minuscule budget, which can ultimately turn a profit after an opening weekend north of $10 million. That formula doesn’t change for “The Curse of La Llorona” which is just another lousy and frugally budgeted flick that takes place within “The Conjuring” universe (which is a big joke, but hey they make money - what do I know?)
This missed opportunity of a film begins, as all these films do, with cheap folklore and murky exposition: In this case, the film is based on the Mexican legend of La Llorona, or The Weeping Woman. Back in 1673, she drowned her two kids after her husband was caught with his pants down. Since then, her spirit (Marisol Ramirez) floats around in her white dress stalking and killing children of other poor mothers.
Transition to Los Angeles 1973, where social worker Anna Garcia (Linda Cardellini - the only salvageable actor in the film) suspects that something is not right with one of her cases. Learning that a mother named Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez) has been forcing her two young sons to live in a cramped closet, she puts the two in foster care. Of course, La Llorona wastes no time drowning the young tykes at a nearby river. In doing this, Patricia puts a curse on Anna and her two children, and just like that, La Llorona is on the prowl again.
“La Llorona” benefits from the occasional build of suspense, but this sloppy cinematic universe of horror has become the very definition of what 2013’s “The Conjuring” was initially trying to combat: smart thrills over cheap scares. And that’s all “La Llorona” is, lots of wailing and creaky closets - and people yelling at the little girl: “Don’t open that door!” (when will people in horror movies learn?) It’s hard for me to be sympathetic towards buffoons who can’t follow simple guidelines, like, not breaking a barrier that’s supposedly keeping a child killing demon out of your house. I digress...
As usual, prominent characters (including a late in the game performance by Raymond Cruz) are armed with crosses and holy water ready to thwart the evil demon whom obnoxiously squeals each time she makes an attack (make sure to keep the aspirin handy). And by the time the curtain closes on this tight 90 minute clunker, the movie evaporates like air, coming and going like the ghostly presences it tries to illicit.
But the biggest pet peeve I have in horror movies (and specifically in “La Llorona) is how characters feel the impulse to light over 100 candles in one sequence “for protection.” Except, the candles (which, let’s be honest, probably took hours to light individually) extinguish as soon as the ghost lets out a puff of air. That to me has got to be the biggest waste of time on the planet. Fitting, that’s how “The Curse of La Llorona” feels too.