As a kid, I had heard whispers of “The Weeping Woman” from some of my friends, but I didn’t learn more about the mythology surrounding this haunting and tragic figure until several years ago when Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights created an immersive and terrifying maze centered around the supernatural child snatcher who has spent the eternity of her afterlife grieving for her children, who were drowned after she went mad. Considering it’s a story that has been around for hundreds of years now, becoming a cautionary tale that parents have used as a means to keep their kids in line, this folklore has been ripe for a cinematic interpretation for quite some time now, and director Michael Chaves does an excellent job of tapping into just why generations of tots have grown up haunted by the fear of being taken away by “La Llorona” if they don’t behave and mind their elders.
In The Curse of La Llorona, we are transported back to the year 1973, where we are introduced to social worker Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), who has been struggling to keep a handle on her professional life and her personal life after the loss of her husband, a police officer killed in the line of duty. As she works with families in crisis in the Los Angeles area, Anna is also trying to put in some extra effort to maintain some semblance of normalcy for her kids Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen), making sure they know that she’s always going to be there looking out for them. But one night, Anna is called to check in with one of her clients, Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velasquez), after reports that something might be amiss with the woman’s two young sons. When she arrives and finds the terrified boys locked away in a closet, Anna’s only choice is to send the kids away so that Ms. Alvarez can focus on getting herself better and deal with some of her psychological issues.
But as it turns out, Patricia was right to be fearful for her sons, and after tragedy strikes, Anna soon realizes that her own family is now in harm’s way, courtesy of “La Llorona.” Completely unprepared to deal with such a malevolent force that will stop at nothing to get its hands on her kids, Anna enlists the help of Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz), a former priest who has spent much of his life contending with evil forces, and who knows just exactly what lengths they must go to in order to stop “The Weeping Woman” from getting what she wants: two more victims.
If you’ve read any of my reviews before, I’ve been pretty vocal about my general disinterest in supernatural stories revolving around ghosts or evil specters (I’m a weirdo who prefers psychologically-driven movies, creature features, and horror comedies to most other subgenres), so it takes a lot to keep me invested in films like The Curse of La Llorona. That being said, Chaves and his outstanding cast reeled me in early, and kept me hooked the entire time, and I very much enjoyed the ride Chaves takes viewers on as a whole (especially the nods to films like Poltergeist and 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street).
There’s also this great moment at the start of La Llorona where Anna is trying to get her kids out the door for school and realizes that one of her son’s shoes is completely trashed. In a moment of quick thinking, she solves the issue with her resourcefulness and some duct tape, and for me, it ends up being such a fun moment of humanity to help ground these characters, and I just thought it was such a wonderfully quiet touch to establishing how this family works in the aftermath of their loss, and I was in from the get-go. Also, as someone who has been ride or die for Cardellini for decades now, I just adored seeing her get to have some fun in the realm of horror for a change.
That’s not to say that The Curse of La Llorona doesn’t venture into some familiar territory with its storytelling, as it hits more than a few familiar beats for those of us who eat, sleep, and breathe horror. But there is a moment when screenwriters Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis push their narrative into a very surprising direction, and I must admit, I loved that they found ways to surprise me, and just getting something that has some element of the unexpected is what I’m always on the hunt for whenever I’m watching new horror movies. I also must tip my hat to cinematographer Michael Burgess, whose camerawork is absolutely incredible (there were several sequences that felt like an homage to some of the innovative camera stylings we saw in the original Evil Dead film series), and really adds a lot, particularly once we spend a fair amount of time inside Anna’s home during the latter half of the film.
Will cynical genre fans enjoy The Curse of La Llorona? It’s hard for me to say, but I do know that considering my own proclivities to watching these types of movies, I ended up enjoying myself immensely, and I’m even more excited now to see what Chaves will do with The Conjuring 3. Oh, and for those curious, The Curse of La Llorona does fit into the James Wan-iverse, but not exactly how I had imagined (and not in a way that feels like a cheat, either), and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Movie Score: 3.5/5
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