Saturday, July 27, 2019

Movie Review: "The Curse of La Llorona" (2019)

Director: Michael Chaves
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

A social worker and her family are haunted by a spirit that hopes to steal her children and drown them.

Dressed as a priest, Tony Amendola and Linda Cardellini discuss the La Llorona legend in The Conjuring Universe horror film The Curse of La Llorona
"We are facing an evil that has no bounds." (Image Source)
Studio executives: "Do you want to watch our generic horror movie?"
Movie-going audiences: "No."
Studio executives: "What if we make it part of the CEU (Conjuring Extended Universe)? Will you watch it then?"
Movie-going audiences: "Okay!!!"

"The Curse of La Llorona" is the feature film directorial debut of Michael Chaves, though he has directed a few short films and the miniseries "Chase Champion." It is written by Mikki Daughtrey and Tobias Iaconis, who recently worked together on the terminal illness romantic drama "Five Feet Apart." This is the sixth movie in The Conjuring Universe, though its connection to the series feels more like an afterthought than a conscious decision. It is based on the Mexican folklore of La Llorona, aka the Weeping Woman, a jilted wife who murdered her children and killed herself. She is now forever in search of more kids to steal and drown. When a social worker named Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) investigates what appears to be a child abuse case, she finds that the subject of her investigation, a woman named Patricia (Patricia Velasquez), has locked her children in a closet and claims she did it for their own protection. Anna decides to take the kids into custody, and that evening, they are taken by La Llorona. Stricken with grief, Patricia prays to La Llorona and asks her to take Anna's kids away in exchange for her own children back. Now haunted by the tormented spirit of La Llorona, Anna must find a way to stop her before her kids are killed.
Movie still for The Curse of La Llorona (2019) where Linda Cardellini embraces her children and protects them from a horror movie villain
"If you move, she will follow you." (Image Source)
Six years ago in 2013, The Conjuring Universe hit the ground running with its namesake offering, "The Conjuring." As the studio has expanded the universe to include more characters and other horror legends and folklore, it has stumbled along the way. The first trip-up came with the painfully mediocre "Annabelle" in 2014, but the series picked itself back up with "The Conjuring 2" in 2016, and "Annabelle: Creation" in 2017. Things were looking up for the CEU, but it fell flat on its face with the terrible, tedious "The Nun" in 2018, and it has only sunk deeper into the mud with "The Curse of La Llorona." For us, this series sits at three wins and three losses.

What could have been a fruitful entry into this franchise featuring an eerie antagonist becomes another run-of-the-mill, generic, boring horror film loaded with ineffective jump scares that can't even deliver on the cheapest form of frights. The biggest bummer is that Michael Chaves isn't able to create a creepy atmosphere or effectively build tension for what could have been such a scary-looking antagonist in the Weeping Woman. There are fleeting glimpses of chilling imagery, but these moments are ruined with shoddy CGI "terrors" that are laughably bad. The movie plays out just as we expected, to the tee, in fact, complete with an exposition character. Father Perez (Tony Amendola), a character featured in "Annabelle," is this film's only connection to "The Conjuring" universe, and frankly, his involvement is totally shoehorned into the plot. Perez's sole purpose is to point Anna in the direction of Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz), a former priest who might be able to help her with her haunting problem. Chaves could have omitted Perez as the middleman, and the story would not have changed one bit. The only decent thing about this movie is Linda Cardellini. It's nice to see her horizons still expanding. It sometimes feels like she hasn't gotten her just dues as an actor, but we know she is so much better than subpar vehicles like this.
Movie still for the 2019 Paramount Pictures horror film "The Curse of La Llorona" where Marisol Ramirez as the Weeping Widow stares and screams at a child while wearing a white wedding gown
"She's just a dark spirit, unholy, forsaken by God." (Image Source)
"The Curse of La Llorona" might not be as dull as "The Nun," but that doesn't make it worth watching. You can most assuredly skip this one.

My Rating: 3.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.5/10
RT Rating: 31%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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