Review by Vitali Gueron
From producers James Wan, Gary Dauberman & Emile Gladstone and director Michael Chaves, comes the latest movie in The Conjuring franchise. Taking place in early 1970s Los Angeles, La Llorona (meaning The Weeping Woman) stars Linda Cardellini as Anna Tate-Garcia, a mother of two children, and a social worker who investigates child abuse cases for the city of Los Angeles. While investigating the disappearance of the two children of Patricia Alvarez (played by Patricia Velásquez), Anna finds Patricia’s children locked inside a closet with a large pad lock keeping them inside.
With help from the police, Anna finds the key to the locked door and find Patricia’s two sons inside. They are scared and tell Anna to keep them in the room so they’re safe. Ignoring their pleas, Anna takes the boys to the police for safety. While at a child services shelter, the two boys Carlos and Tomas sleep walk through multiple corridors until one stops, stares and points to a small mirror in the corner where both see La Llorona. La Llorona disappears from the mirror (which cracks) and then she reappears, grabbing Carlos. That night, Anna learns of the deaths of the two boys, who have been found drowned in a nearby river.
The significance of two boys drowned in a nearby river is that towards the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to a couple who are playing with their children in a field in 1673 Mexico. It is in that scene that we are shown that one of the boys sees his mother drowning his brother in a stream. The boy tries to run away but his mother catches him and appears to drown him too. Back in present early 1970s Los Angeles, Anna takes her two children, son Chris (Roman Christou) and daughter Sam (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen), with her to the murder scene as she is a single mother and has no one to watch them. It is there that Anna sees and hears Patricia scream at her, accusing Anna of her boys’ deaths.
While the confrontation between Anna and Patricia is going on, Anna’s son Chris decides to leave their family car and investigate the crime scene. Chris hears a faint sound of weeping, as if a woman is crying behind him. As he turns around, he sees the woman, La Llorona, in a white dress approaching him. She grabs him and leaves burn marks on his wrist. Luckily Chris rushes back to the car and prevents La Llorona from reaching him inside the car before his mother comes back to drive them home. The next day we learn that La Llorona has travelled along with Anna, Chris and Sam to their house and she is now haunting them through various way; once when Sam takes a bath, the other time when Sam is walking outside by their pool.
Anna takes drastic measures and rushes, along with her kids, to church to see Father Perez (Tony Amendola), who relates the case to his previous experiences with his involvement in the case of the Annabelle doll (from the 2014 movie Annabelle which is also part of The Conjuring franchise) Father Perez says that while the church can’t help them in this case, he does refer them to a former priest named Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz) to help them get rid of the hauntings. With Rafael’s help, Anna and her children prep the house with candles and other holy items, but La Llorona attacks the family and attempts to drown Anna and Sam in the pool. Rafael creates a holy barrier at the doors to protect the family, but Patricia finds Anna’s house and while blaming Anna for her sons’ deaths, she breaks the holy barrier, allowing La Llorona back inside the house.
Sam and Chris flee to the attic while Anna is trapped in the basement. Chris tried to push back at La Llorona by displaying her a necklace that Anna took off La Llorona, which makes La Llorona briefly assume her human appearance (and we see the same woman from 1673 Mexico, who drowned her own sons in the river.) With Patricia’s change of heart, she helps Anna find her children in the attic and La Llorona’s spirit is defeated when Anna stabs her through the chest with a cross made from a Fire Tree (the one that grew by the river where La Llorona drowned her children.) Although we do see that Anna is successful in destroying her spirit, we never quite get the sense that there aren’t any more spirits around and that they could come back at any time.
While The Curse of La Llorona is one of the “middle of the road” films in The Conjuring franchise. It lacks the star power of Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) but it also has that haunted house feel we love to see in paranormal movies. While most of the jumps scares are predictable, and sometimes even funny, Linda Cardellini’s performance rises above the rest and makes for one enjoyable fright. Michael Chaves uses the unstable camera to his advantage, making his audience feel ever so uncomfortable, especially in places that are meant to make you comfortable, such as the bathtub. Overall, while The Curse of La Llorona isn’t perfect, it makes adequate connection to The Conjuring Universe’s fine collection of paranormal haunting films.
Have you seen The Curse of La Llorona? Well, what did you think?